There's this really aggressive recruiter trying to get me for a job that sounds pretty good, is local, pays about right... and has sent me two voicemails and an email in the last 24 hours. Okay, whatever, he's trying to do his job. So, I go to fill in the stuff he wants, and...

... they're asking for my SSN right on their 'initial applicants' form. I don't care if it's a 'secure' form, it's still a required field to fill out, and it's setting off all my red flags.

I'm half tempted to approach the hiring company myself -- the guy already told me who it is, anyway -- just to make a point about how disturbed I am by this, but I'm secretly wondering if the job even exists right now. This is the first recruiter I've come across that wants this information AT ALL -- not even before first response, not on the phone, not in an in-person interview!

Is this legit, or should I let my instincts lead me as far away from this guy as possible?

  • 3
    Legal immigrants have SSNs too, by the way. Jan 23, 2013 at 15:36
  • 9
    I would contract the recruiter and explain you will only provide your SSN directly to their client and only after your there for an actual interview. If they cannot accept that then then they can find somebody else for the postion. This is the point where i would contact their client apply for the job directly, and if given the chance, explain you had to contact them directly to avoid giving out PII to their recruting firm.
    – Donald
    Jan 24, 2013 at 17:07
  • 1
    "really aggressive recruiter" put me off them immediately. I'd follow Ramhound's comment tbh. Jan 25, 2013 at 14:41
  • 16
    You're being scammed. Do not fall for it. I had someone call me up from Fort Worth telling me they had job postings for some of the national banks in the area where I lived. I knew who all those actors were and I knew they had postings, so I had no need to go through someone on the other end of the state. They said they couldn't process my submission until they had the last four digits of my SSN. Recruiters don't ask for that until a 'yes' hiring decision is made. Dec 20, 2013 at 19:44
  • The Federal Trade Commission is a good place to report scams. Fill out a complaint. Be aware that everything you put on it, including your name, address, and phone number is in the public record. Dec 20, 2013 at 19:46

7 Answers 7


According to the Social Security Administration's Legal requirements to provide your Social Security number, the following situations require it:

  • Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans;
  • Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes;
  • Employers enrolled in E-Verify;
  • States for the school lunch program;
  • Banks for monetary transactions;
  • Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number;
  • Department of Labor for workers’ compensation;
  • Department of Education for Student Loans;
  • States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law within its jurisdiction;
  • States for child support enforcement;
  • States for commercial drivers’ licenses;
  • States for Food Stamps;
  • States for Medicaid;
  • States for Unemployment Compensation;
  • States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; or
  • U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds

None of those situations are "to apply for a position", which is the situation you are in. You may refuse to give it, and I personally would until I was actually signing a contract/offer letter/payroll papers for a specific company.

You might ask why your Social Security number is needed, how your number will be used, and what law they think requires you to give your number, if they push you on it, and determine you final answer from there.

As to your specific questions, I don't know how common it is -- I've not seen a request for a social security number in this context in a long, long time, but that is just me. It's quite possible that you are working with a dumb recruiter who thinks he or she needs/is entitled to this information; similarly, you could be working with a scammer.

As for your response being warranted, it's perfectly reasonable to ask to confirm if the position exists and if Recruiter X is handling it, and that's the extent to which I would discuss it with them.

  • 15
    I would no more give my SSN to a recruiter than I would give it to a used car salesman. I wouldn't give it to a potential employer until I had at least an initial interview. Jan 23, 2013 at 16:48
  • 5
    There are even fewer cases where you're required by law to give someone your phone number or e-mail address. I don't think the issue is whether the OP is required to give his SSN, but whether it's a good idea to do so. IMHO, the answer is a resounding no. Leave that space on the form blank. If it's a web form that you can't submit without filling it in, talk to the recruiter and/or see if the form will accept 000-00-0000 or some other obviously fake number (I wouldn't use something random and real-looking). Jan 23, 2013 at 18:04
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    @KeithThompson - It's one thing to give an SSN directly to an employer who has a legitimate need for it. For example government related jobs that have security requirements. Recruiters are just salesmen. There is NO reason that a recruiter might need a candidate's SSN. Jan 23, 2013 at 20:10
  • 2
    @Shauna - The SSN should only be requested in conjunction with a job offer, or after a serious round of interviews in the case of security sensitive positions. Asking for SSN on an initial contact is highly inappropriate! Jan 25, 2013 at 19:43
  • 3
    SSN should only be asked for during the hiring process after you have accepted a job offer and never before that.
    – HLGEM
    Dec 20, 2013 at 22:22

Here is how I handle it:

Online forms

I leave the field blank. If I cannot, then I enter 000-00-0000.

Paper forms

I leave the field blank.

So what happens when someone asks me for it? It is very rare for that to happen. When it has, I've said something like, "oh, I'm very happy to provide it once I accept the offer."

If they were to press the issue (only happened once, because it was "company policy"), then I've said, "Oh, I understand. I was a victim of identity theft (true) and as a policy, I have to be very careful about giving out that information. I'd be happy to provide it once I accept the offer." In my case, the person backed down.

If they hadn't, then I would've ended the process at that point and moved on to my next candidate company.


This MAY be legit, but I don't think so.

Recruiters will need to know your SSN if you are working through them as an agency and being contracted to the employer. Also, some bad HR people think they need to get SSN's from applicants.

I had responded to an ad, once, with no company name on it, and someone from Seagate sent me a form demanding it and a release to perform a credit check. I responded that it would be premature at this stage without even having an interview. She sent back a rather scathing email about how I need to comply with their policies, and she would now "take me off the list." I looked her up on LinkedIn, and she really did work for Seagate, so take that for what you will.

BTW - I don't by Seagate hard drives, any more. <grin>

  • It is possible the scammer simply looked up the same information and pretended to be the real person. I assume you called/sent an sms, and they then sent an email to you. The from field in emails is complete non-information as it can be changed as easily as simply editing a form element. Oct 4, 2017 at 6:16

I was approached by a recruiter for a great job with 3M (a local company here in Minnesota). I gave all of my info except my SSN. The recruiter assured me that 3M would not consider any applicant without an SSN. I refused to provide it. I explained to the recruiter that requiring an SSN makes them look shady.

There is no legitimate reason to require an SSN before an interview. It is not acceptable to expect people to give up their SSN to anyone who asks for it, especially solely over the phone.

  • 7
    So is there a moral to this story? Jan 23, 2013 at 18:17
  • 5
    I answered the question: "There is no legitimate reason to require an SSN before an interview. It is not acceptable to expect people to give up their SSN to anyone who asks for it, especially solely over the phone."
    – Evik James
    Jan 23, 2013 at 18:18
  • 3
    Hi Evik, we liked that answers here explain the "why" - our FAQ has a good explanation as to the types of answers we look to see here.
    – enderland
    Jan 23, 2013 at 18:53
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    Did you get invited in for an interview? Jan 23, 2013 at 22:14
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    @BurhanKhalid its headquartered in Minnesota so I think that use of local is normal.
    – Andy
    Apr 7, 2015 at 22:15

Searching the web, this legal link about the Use and Disclosure of SSN, reads:

(c)Requests for disclosure of social security number. Any component which requests an individual to disclose his or her social security account number shall inform that individual whether:

    (1) Disclosure is mandatory or voluntary.

    (2) By what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and

    (3) What uses will be made of it. (See section 7 of the Privacy Act of 1974 set forth at 5 U.S.C. 552a, note.)

I suggest you check that link, as it has other parts ("a" and "b"), that you should read that may be related to your situation. However (IANAL, though), it seems that those points may not apply to your specific situation here, which is applying for a job.

I also suppose that the recruiter should have followed all 3 points above mentioned, and if not you are in your rights to ask for clarification on them.

To be completely sure, you could consult a lawyer about this in case we missed some important details.


Some recruiters may want a SSN to help ensure that you really are legally authorized to work in the US, but they should still be able to do that without your SSN... in its entirety or in part.

Some suggestions I've heard were to give a fake SSN, or fake the last 4 digits if that's all they want, and if you do get hired, correct yourself. Whether or not you decide to go with this, or to be upfront and say you'll provide it upon receiving a written offer, I'd err on the side of caution and NOT give your real one till then.

  • 2
    If you give a fake SSN which happens to be a bad one, say it belongs to a dead person, and the potential employer uses it to conduct a background check, what do you think it will happen?
    – Nobody
    Sep 30, 2015 at 4:10

Recruiters don't need the full social security number until the contract write-up for whichever government document you fill in like W-4. Some recruiters do need the last 4 digits of your SSN because it might be required by their client so the client company can do a background check on you. This happens often when you are looking at a job with a bank or other financial institution.

  • 2
    You can't do a background check with just the last four.
    – Andy
    Apr 7, 2015 at 22:16
  • You can probably disambiguate between two people with the same name and current town with the last four, though.
    – davidbak
    Jun 17, 2018 at 0:12

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