My college age son is job hunting here in California, and a few large employers (Lowe's, Sears, Michael's) are requiring his social security number as part of the application process. The process halts if he doesn't enter it on their web site as part of the application. I saw a 1 similar question, but the link in the accepted answer no longer includes the quoted material. So I assume it's legal to ask for a SSN, but is it a good idea to give it? I can understand handing it over once you accept a job, but before?

EDIT: I had seen the "recruiter wants my SSN" question, and I believed it to be different in that it's not the employer but a headhunter asking, who may or may not have a real relationship with the employer, so, yeah, no way I would surrender it to him. I understand that it's likely more efficient for the prospective employer to collect data up front and then discard it if necessary. And that they can pay $$ to weed out fakes far up front, and that might be cost effective for them. Beyond that, what is their purpose? If they get SSN from every minimum wage job seeker, they now have a big list of potential liabilities for the next time they get hacked (I'm looking at you Target). What am I not seeing here?

  • 3
    One of the purposes would be to pull the person's credit rating.
    – PM 77-1
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 4:08
  • 2
    Regardless of the age of the top-voted answer, this is still basically a duplicate of This Recruiter wants my Social Security Number?. BryanH's answer also covers the online form aspect.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 8:24
  • Please could somebody tell me what possible damage can be done with knowing a persons SSN. Does the US use additional information when a person claims against the number (e.g .birth certificate?)
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 17:42
  • @EdHeal Ha-ha-ha! Nope, and it makes it easier for someone to file an erroneous tax return, get a job, take out a loan, etc.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 17:56
  • So in the US when taking out a loan/getting a job/etc. they do not check that your ID (passport etc) against the SSN.
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


Employment is one of the few legitimate uses for the SSN; they need it to file taxes and such on your behalf. But before you're hired... I agree, that would bother me too.

It's entirely legal fot them to ask. It's entirely legal to answer "Not before I'm hired." But this being the US, it's probably entirely legal for them to say "if you don't trust us we won't hire you" -- and the only recourse is to be willing to walk away and interview elsewhere.

And that may, in fact, be the right answer.

  • The problem here is that these are entry level jobs, you may not ever actually speak to a real person. And it's an online form (or one someone might fill out at a kiosk at the store), so leaving it blank prevents you from continuing. Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 16:21
  • This being the US, the OP should tell the interviewer to go kiss a monkey's hind, but this being the US the interviewer would feel quite offended and rage quit life, let freedom ring...
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:28

Read the waivers those companies make your son agree to.

If it's for a credit report, which will depend on these rules in California, they will tell him if it's for that purpose so that they can obtain a waiver from him.

If it's for the purpose of double-checking previous employment records, they will tell him that as well since they'll need a waiver from him.

I don't know if it's a good idea to give it, but I live in California and I've personally given it when I applied for jobs. Not wanting to give it would severely limit the number of jobs one can apply to.


It's not possible to answer for every potential employer. Some may request your social security number to perform pre-screening, while others may be just collecting information. My opinion is that it is inappropriate when the potential employer has not even expressed an interest in a candidate, but wants everyone to load their Soc# on their website. For large corporations, there are probably a lot of fakes applying and it's more efficient to ask for the number up front to do a background check if they are interested. As a rule, I do not give out my social security number unless I trust the organization.

  • Also being California it could be filtering out illegals. Not even getting them to the point where an offer saves the company time. Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 16:23

I believe your SSN is one direct means of verifying employment eligibility within the USA. For example, certain travel visas allow for an individual to acquire a social security number, however, they do not allow employment. An employer can likely verify this fairly easily with Social Security without having to go through the Dept. of Homeland Security or US Immigration Services.

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