We’re moving in a few weeks, into a neighborhood where Comcast provides cable and Internet service. The good news is they have high-speed access and high-definition DVR service. The bad news is that Comcast insists I have to give them my Social Security number before they’ll start my service.
The sales rep says the company doesn’t run a credit check or actually do anything with the information. Instead, they use it as an identity check so that a third party can’t make changes to my service.
Are they insane? Identity theft is a real problem, and the Social Security Administration cautions, “You should be careful about sharing your number with anyone who asks for it (even when you are provided with a benefit or service).” They specifically caution against companies like Comcast doing this:
If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and other services ask for a Social Security number, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means.
Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask why your number is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.
The rep I talked to said it’s “policy.” No, I can’t talk to a supervisor, but he’ll have someone call me back. We’ll see what happens.