HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Your Social Security number follows you all of your life. It is the most important number you will ever have. You're often asked to provide it by physicians, utility companies and employers.
But some retailers, pawn shops and other businesses may also ask for your number, and while there is no law that requires you to provide it, there is also no law that prevents them from doing business with you if you refuse.
So when should you provide it?
There are times when you are required to provide your Social Security number, for instance when applying for a job, credit, or loans. But there are times when you are asked to provide the number when it is not required, and you need to know the difference.
Michele Mason with the BBB said if you are just giving background information, for example, your health history, there is no reason to put it on that form. Mason said it's important to be protective of your Social Security number for good reason.
"As much as employers try to do their best to check the background of employees, you never really know when people have access to your number, how they are going to utilize it. So the less you have it out there, the more you can minimize having your identity stolen," she said.
You are encouraged to check your credit report at least once or twice a year. You have free access to a copy of your report from the three major reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Another tip Mason offers is when you are giving out your number verbally to be aware of your surroundings and who may be listening. With current cell phone technology, you want to make sure no one is standing behind you who may be recording or taking photos of your information.