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I have been approached by many recruiters recently. Some of them ask for the last four digits of my social security number or the whole number, while some do not. I never give my SSN to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. I saw a post in which people say that recruiters should not be given SSNs - This Recruiter wants my Social Security Number? . So far, I have refused to do it unless I am signing an employment contract or until after an interview.

That post does not mention whether it is okay to give the last four digits of the SSN. Is there any valid reason for a recruiter to ask for the last four of my SSN ?

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    Why can't I say Hi Everyone in this forum. It seems that they are removing greetings automatically. – Stacy May 19 '14 at 2:25
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    Your rule of thumb is safe to live by. Refrain from sharing info with anyone you haven't established a solid working relationship with. Some employers (a certain u.s. telco) do require some pretty personal info upfront. Has the recruiter stated specific uses they will be putting that information to? – kolossus May 19 '14 at 2:48
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    Stacy, you can't say "Hi" in this "forum" because the Stack Exchange community is not a forum or BBS. It's a place where focused questions & solid answers can exist. – JakeGould May 19 '14 at 3:13
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    You can say 'Hi' but other users will quickly edit that out because it is not essential to the question. It's not personal ;-) – Jan Doggen May 19 '14 at 8:05
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    Hey Stacy, and welcome to The Workplace! As explained on our tour page, we're a bit different from other websites since we try to match questions with answers to help people looking for solutions to their issues. As a result, we remove statements like 'hello' or 'thank you' from posts. I know this can be confusing, but hopefully the linked post above will explain it a bit better. Thanks! – jmac May 19 '14 at 12:23
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I wouldn't give that out to them; not even a "portion" of it.

There is no reason to give any part of your social security number to anyone other than someone you have a financial relationship with. By that I mean that they are loaning you money or paying you. It's necessary for loans for reporting to credit tracking agencies and it's necessary to pay you because they need to report it to the IRS.

Quite frankly I'd review the reason why I was considering doing business with any company that asked for that information from me. If there are others who perform this service that I'm willing to work with then I'd move on. If there aren't then I'd simply tell them no.

If they say "we just use it for internal tracking" then I'd probably point out that they have an internal security problem and I'd rather not become part of that mess. Bear in mind that numerous companies such as Amazon and Apple have been hit hard because their customer service people have asked for part of a social in order to reset passwords...

If they state that they need it for a "background check" then I'd let them know that I will happily allow the company I receive an offer from do this. That said, after 30+ years of working in the USA I've never once seen a recruiter actually perform a BG check. Employers usually can't afford to trust them.

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    And bear in mind that the last 4 digits of the SSN are the only really sensitive part. For the majority of people that got their SSN prior to 2011, the first 5 digits are determined by when and where you were born. Since that's not particularly difficult information for a hacker to obtain, the last 4 digits of your SSN is the key that gives an attacker your full SSN with reasonable confidence. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_number for details on the assignment algorithm. – Justin Cave May 19 '14 at 19:41
  • I wonder how much of a background check can be done with an SSN. Is there any reliable agency or online service for this ? – Stacy May 21 '14 at 22:13
  • @Stacy: We run ours through ADP. They require the first, middle, last name, ssn, and current address. It's enough to pull everything that we could possibly be interested in. – NotMe May 22 '14 at 13:23
  • @Stacy this is part of why you should protect your SSN from anyone you're not in a financial arrangement with. SSN is pretty much the single most important data point for taking out loans, credit cards, medical history, etc. You're right to use caution, this isn't normal, and stinks. I'd just find someone else to work with. – RualStorge Apr 16 '15 at 19:03
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That post does not mention whether it is okay to give the last four digits of the SSN. Is there any valid reason for a recruiter to ask for the last four of my SSN ?

You can ask the recruiter if that's needed at that stage. That's more than fair. Their reaction at that point should let you know how much on your side they are.

But in general recruiters hold a weird role in the tech community. And I am assuming you are seeking a tech job, correct?

As far as recruiters go, your best bet is to work with one agency or recruiter. You'll get inquiries from recruiters from all over, but they are meeting their quotas fir making contact with potential resources. Meaning you are basically "inventory" to them. No more. No less.

Which brings me back to the initial question: Any valid & legitimate recruiter who will be acting in your best interest & provide solid leads will not be asking you for any deep personal details other than the basics for an initial contact. Full name, address, phone, e-mail & job history.

If it seems like they are all swarming for your precious last 4 digits of your Social Security number, don't cave in.

This is not dissimilar to shoddy real estate brokers who won't let you see a place without a detailed application filled out ahead of time. Legit brokers don't do that.

  • I'd like to note that, as a recruiter, I've had clients (such as BP) that require the last 4 digits of the SSN as well as birthday for candidate submission. They'll release a vacancy through their portal to all agencies, and some agencies will just submit candidate resumes outright, without speaking to the candidate. This is to ensure that isn't happening. – Caleb Jay Sep 9 '15 at 12:32
  • "As far as recruiters go, your best bet is to work with one agency..." +1 for this. Loyalty will pay dividends. Your recruiter is a tool. He/she spends all day talking to hiring managers. Share the information you have, and you will be rewarded by having your resume sent around moreso than other candidates. Top candidates who are well known in the office as being useful and transparent will get to the point where management will put pressure on recruiters to get the candidate placed, sometimes stepping in personally. – Caleb Jay Sep 9 '15 at 12:50
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There is no valid reason for anyone involved in hiring, except your actual employer who must send your tax payments to the IRS, to have any portion of your social security number. Do not give it to anyone unles you are filling in the HR paperwork on your first day. Never do it at anytime before your first day aactaully at work. If a recruiter asks for it, that is an indicatior that he or she is shaky ethically and thus not to be worked with.

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    The full SSN may also be needed as part of the background investigation. – mhoran_psprep May 19 '14 at 14:42
  • @mhoran_psprep - If I give someone the past 10rs of my work history, name, phone number and current address and they can't do a background check without a SSN, they're not very good. – user8365 May 19 '14 at 18:57
  • @mhoran_psprep - please tell me how a ssn or part of it could be used to perform an background check. Is there a reliable online/offline service for this ? – Stacy May 21 '14 at 22:05
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    Some background checks in involve financial, and criminal checks, the SSN is used to make sure that the correct records are found. Some of these checks months to complete. – mhoran_psprep May 21 '14 at 23:42
  • To perform a background check we need the SSN, date of birth, full name, and address. This only checks criminal background, we don't check financials. This should only happen when a client has extended an offer to a candidate - I can't think of any reason an agency would spend the money on a background check if a candidate wasn't hired yet. (USA) This is outsourced to a background checking company, there are many such companies in the States. – Caleb Jay Sep 9 '15 at 12:47
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I give the last 4 to my bank because I have a continuing, confidential relationship with my bank and banks are tightly regulated. In comparison, my relationship with recruiters is throwaway and unregulated. If they want the last 4 digits, they can use the last four digits of my LinkedIn account.

The fact that plenty of recruiters are willing to work with you without asking for your SSN should be a decisive indicator to you that no one in the recruiting business actually needs your last 4 SSN digits to manage their data about you. I have yet to meet a recruiter who asked me for the last 4 digits of my SSN.

Asking whether it's OK to give the last 4 digits of your SSN - that's asking the wrong question and you should edit the title of your post accordingly. The answer to the wrong question is that you can do whatever you want. If you are asking whether you are required to give the last 4 digits of your SSN, the answer is no. Ditto if you ask if it's a good idea to give the last 4 digits of your SSN to recruiters.

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Just give them a fake social and once they get you a legitimate offer/you start your first day Have them change it.

I was really ticked off the few first times this was asked and refuse to provide this info. But, after many potentially good tech gigs I was being propositioned for I decided to pursue these gigs by giving them a fake social.

Overall, I play recruiters to my advantage, I.e. Tell them I'm making a lot more then I am to get a killer deal on my next gig and give fake info until I know it's legitimate. Once everyone starts giving out fake socials they'll Chang this awful practice!!!

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    I play recruiters to my advantage If they find out you gave them false information, you become un-trust-able and if they spread the words out, no recruiter will want to work with you. – scaaahu Aug 17 '15 at 8:44
  • I can't say that I agree with this advice but I don't have enough experience with recruiters in the US to say that it's a bad practice. The other answers state to just not do it which is my gut reaction but I could see some people resorting to this if they're desperate for a job and being legitimately turned down because of a stupid SSN policy. – Lilienthal Aug 17 '15 at 8:46
  • @scaaahu I assume the trick is to say that you gave them an incorrect number by mistake, but then if you get called out on it early in the process you have no way around giving them your actual SSN without blowing up the relationship. – Lilienthal Aug 17 '15 at 8:47
  • @Lilienthal SSN is the only national ID number in US. There is no way to give an incorrect number by mistake. This is like saying I remember my birthday wrong. The trcik won't work. – scaaahu Aug 17 '15 at 8:51
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    Being dishonest with your recruiter will only hurt you. If it's an agency recruiter, naming a salary higher than reasonable will ensure you won't get submitted for roles, and any roles you get submitted for, you'll get turned down for. Recruiters spend all day every day speaking with the area hiring managers. We develop strong relationships with these people. We are considered "consultants" to them. If you go around being untrustworthy, word will spread. – Caleb Jay Sep 9 '15 at 12:35
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Assuming these are agencies contacting you, there are reasons why they would need your SSN. however, background checks require you written permission and happen only after there is a job offer. Do not give out personal information on an initial inquiry. That is a red flag for identity theft.

We have several clients who use a "job portal" that only agencies such as ours have access to. When a vacancy is released on the job portal, there was at one time a problem with immoral agencies submitting resumes wholesale without ever speaking to a candidate. Some clients dealt with this by cutting out these agencies, others by implementing "ensured contact" methods - requesting references, a written statement of representation by the candidate, or detailed personal information such as birth date and SSN.

I can't think of any reason a recruiter would need this information unless there is a specific role at one company that the recruiter has spoken to you about. If a recruiter calls you and asks outright, in the first call, without any mention of a job vacancy or client, then no, I would not give your SSN. At the very least, I would ask why they need it at such an early stage. However, if your recruiter has told you about a vacancy that you're interested in and has told you that the SSN is a prerequisite for submission, you will not be submitted unless you provide it. Other candidates will, and other candidates will get the job.

Obviously, do your due diligence and ensure a recruiting company is who they say they are, and you're not just speaking to a particularly clever scam artist.

protected by Community Sep 9 '15 at 13:20

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