You don't (or shouldn't) have to show...

You don't (or shouldn't) have to show them no stinkin' SSNs

There are 11 comments on the Baltimore Sun story from Nov 2, 2008, titled You don't (or shouldn't) have to show them no stinkin' SSNs. In it, Baltimore Sun reports that:

For 43 trouble-free years, John Murray never left home without his American Express card.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Baltimore Sun.

Lou P

Elmhurst, NY

#1 Nov 2, 2008
Slow news day? What's the big deal? Most credit card companies ask for the last four digits of your social and have for years, American Express included. I am perfectly comfortable sharing this information with a company which sees all of my financial transactions and handles payments on my behalf.

Frederick, MD

#3 Nov 2, 2008
These people that are so paranoid about providing a portion of their SSN for verification purposes are just silly. What people need to realize, this guy included, is when businesses ask for a piece of identifying information,(SSN, date of birth, billing address, etc.) they aren't asking because they don't have the info and they need it, they are asking you to VERIFY the information they already have on file to help to ensure they are speaking to the actual account holder. When he filled out his credit card application way back when he would have had to put his SSN on it, so
AMEX already had it. He should be happy that AMEX is taking steps to ensure the security of his account, but no, he decided to be a pain in the butt and have a hissy fit.

Germantown, MD

#4 Nov 2, 2008
Supplying your SS# to a business for verification purposes may not just be a matter of allowing the business to verify something they already have. It may be that the business is relaying the information to a third party for verification. This brings up issues of how securely the information is being transmitted and if the information is being recorded. It is a common practice for businesses to retain information from customer calls for tracking/history purposes.(How many times have you heard, "This call may be recorded...) These recordings and other tracking information exist within files in a computer database and may be processed by a third party and ultimately may not be handled correctly or destroyed properly. So assuming that it is ok to give a business your SS# because they already have it is not always wise. Mr. Murray was correct to be careful with his information.

Middle River, MD

#5 Nov 2, 2008
The vast majority of these companies don't check your SSN against the big three credit rating agencies. They use the SSN as a means of internal identification. The "credit" they are checking is actually their own. Basically, they are checking to see if you owe THEM money. If you refuse to provide it, they cannot do that check. That leaves potential past due receivables on the books and adds insult to financial injury because they open an account for the bad debtor again.
Legally, you don't have to provide it. But companies aren't punished for punishing YOU for refusing to provide it. That means something minimal like charging a small deposit to open an account to something major like refusing to do business with you at all.
The entire credit system is full of garbage anyway. It simply isn't designed with you in mind. Best advice? Save your money, increase your cash flow and DON'T buy using credit. You're only buying and living beyond your means. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. It's not as hard as it sounds, and It'll make your life much easier.

Bethpage, NY

#6 Nov 4, 2008
Credit cards are a great convinence for me. Especially when shopping on line. My credit card co. has whats called a safeshopper card. When I'm making a purchase on line I obtain a safeshopper # from cc co. This is done online in a matter of seconds. This number is good only for the one store. I have no problem in using last 4 digits of ss# to verify who I am. It's when they keep asking me the same question over and over. This is when I am suspicious of their honesty and hang up or click off.
I also believe in spending only what I can pay off that month. No finance charges for me. This is what works for me. How about you?

United States

#7 Nov 4, 2008
Just a quick comment on the article. The FTC has begun requiring credit issuers to comply with a new set of rules called “Red Flag Rules” that are designed to prevent identity theft. Although it is perfectly acceptable to refuse to give your SSN to a business it is also acceptable for that business to refuse to open an account without verifying your identity. In this day and age the tools available for businesses to do so are almost exclusively tied to a consumers credit file. While it is true that a credit report can be accessed without a SSN it is not as accurate.
I have included a link to the FTC that explains the Red Flag Rules.
cop wife

East New Market, MD

#8 Nov 7, 2008
ssn is not
cop wife

East New Market, MD

#9 Nov 7, 2008
cop wife

East New Market, MD

#10 Nov 7, 2008

Kingston, PA

#12 Nov 8, 2008
Social Security numbers were never meant to be used for anything other than Social Security, the numbers were never meant to be used for identification.
Amex Activation Agent

Naperville, IL

#13 Nov 22, 2008
I actually work in the Activation Department for American Express. The process is simple.. when a call comes in, the account comes up on the screen. If the cardmember has not input their information in the automated system, we have ZERO access into the account and all we can see at that point is the card number and name.

This is the point when we ask identification questions. We don't select those questions, depending on the type or card and whether or not the system recognizes the phone number the cardmember is calling from the question can be anything from the last 4 digits of the SSN, the date of birth, the business phone number we [already] have listed on the accounts, or even just the code that's on the front of the card.

If any of those questions are refused of failed we have big red words come up - "Unable to identify customer. ID failed. Trasfer call." and at that point there is nothing we can do and we're still at square one with only access to the card number and name.

We don't ask for these pieces of information because we want to update the account, it's information we already have so we're using it to verify that you are who you say you are. What if we just asked for the name on the card, activated the card, and sent you on your way? There's no protection in that at all. We take the precautions that we take because 1. we are required to by law and 2. we want your account with us to be secure in the correct hands.

And in response to what JIMR said, all of our calls throughout American Express are recorded. The calls are used for training and so that the agents on the phone can be reviewed. The recordings are not shared with third parties and with American Express there is no third party that we have to verify information through. If you have an American Express card, you only go through American Express.

We're not the same as Visa or Mastercard where your card can come from hundreds of different financial institutions. In that case, they'd have to verify the information to make sure it matched on all sides. But, again, with American Expres we have no third party. If you recieve your card and it has the number to American Express Card Activation, you're only speaking to American Express and your information will only be used INternally.

Also, maybe everone would be happy to know that in all departments of American Express we practice the "Clean Desk Policy" meaning we aren't able to have anything on our desks - magazines, newspapers, books, notebooks, pens or pencils.. so there is no possibility that we are jeapordizing your card information with the possibility of us being on the other end of the phone writing down your information. Throughout American Express that "Clean Desk Policy" is enforced.

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