Julie from Bloomington sent in this question: A waste pickup service just refused to accept me as a customer because I would not give out my birth date or the last four numbers of my social security number. I was polite and explained that part of my identity had been stolen in the past. The rep was firm that they could not accept me as a customer and offered to have me speak with her supervisor. I left a polite message. I also refuse to give any of my

social security number to medical clinics. Is it legal for a company to insist on this info?



I checked with Dianne Cutter, CEO of Asurency Protection in Chaska. Generally, you are not legally required to provide your SSN to most businesses, including most health care providers, unless one of the exceptions below applies, she said. However, some companies might refuse to do business with you if you don’t provide your SSN. But even though you are not legally required to disclose your SSN, the business generally does not have to provide you with service if you refuse to release it. So in a sense, you are strong-armed into giving your SSN.

In most states, there is no law that prevents businesses from requesting your SSN, and there are few restrictions on what businesses can do with it. Five states (Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, and Rhode Island) either restrict the solicitation of SSNs or prohibit denying goods and services to an individual who declines to give an SSN. Read the Consumers Union compilation of state laws.

If a business insists on knowing your SSN when you do not see a reason for it, we encourage you to speak to a manager who may be authorized to make an exception or who may know whether company policy requires it. If the company will not allow you to use an alternate number such as your driver’s license number, you may want to take your business elsewhere, said Cutter.

Julie said that a supervisor at the waste pickup service called her back to say that she could have the service if she paid three monthsin advance. The supervisor said that the reasons the birth date and SSN are requested is that it makes it easier to collect for non-payment.

You can refuse to give the info, but it's also legal for the company to refuse you service, at least in Minnesota.