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Do you feel comfortable giving your social security number?
Thread poster: Crystal Samples

Crystal Samples  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:17
French to English
+ ...
May 23, 2008

I'm in the middle of one of my periodic marketing sessions, which consists of sending out my resume to/and filling out questionnaires for a bunch of agencies in order to find new work. Now, I've had a few agencies request that I fill out W-9s and give them my social security number as part of the application process. This bothers me because I don't feel that they need my social security number if they haven't even promised me any work. It's bad enough that I have to give out my name, address, phone number, email and work history to dozens of strangers, all for the sake of marketing, but now they wan't my social security number too! I feel that this information should be kept private until I've established a comfortable working relationship with the agency. I don't feel that I should give it out just to apply!

Your thoughts?

Crystal Samples


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:17
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Caution May 23, 2008

On blank forms (or web-based forms), I put in "will provide with first job". That gets past the interfaces that won't let you submit without filling in this blank. When I'm asked for a W-9 without any work being offered, I ask for assurances that I will get at least $600 paid during the calendar year. If they're interested in working with you, they'll give you those assurances. Otherwise, you're just dealing with a clerk.

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
No May 23, 2008

I only provide it to companies in the U.S. for whom I do enough work that they will need to report the payments to the Internal Revenue Service. As far as I can tell, no one else has a legitimate need to know it.

I don't provide my street address either. My business address is a P.O. Box.

[Edited at 2008-05-23 20:20]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Do not provide it May 24, 2008

Do not provide your Social Security number until you are billing for work already done, then, and only then, are they entitled to get it.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:17
English to German
+ ...
There is no reason to provide it. May 24, 2008

Certified US tax accountants only need the freelancer's full name and address and that's it. They can figure out your SSN at any time (if necessary at all) and then it will be in good hands. If you are using a P.O Box however, then you have a problem.

In any case: Never provide such personal information together with an application. The colleagues are absolutely right.


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linguadois
Local time: 10:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
wait until you get your first job May 24, 2008

Some time ago an agency contacted me to provide interpreting services. The agency sent me numerous pages that I needed to fill out, including my social security number, a copy of my drivers' license and my notarized signature. I though it was odd at the time because I had never received such request. In the end the job was canceled and I didn't even bother sending back the documents. Later, they contacted me again, I agreed to complete several interpreting assignments. Only then, I did fill out all their paperwork and send to them all the required documents, signatures, etc. And I did get paid promptly, I should add.
I never provide my social security number or any other personal information without having a contract or something in writing stating the rate to be paid, a job number, contact information, etc. Most times, I provide it only if the accounting department requests it, usually by filling out a W-9 form. And that is after I submitted my invoice.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:17
English to French
+ ...
Not even May 24, 2008

Crystal Samples wrote:

I feel that this information should be kept private until I've established a comfortable working relationship with the agency.


Even when the relationship is established, they have no use whatsoever for your social security number. I wouldn't give it out at all, no matter what kind of relationship I have with the client. You are not their employee, and so, the only things they have a use for is your name, address, contact details and a resume containing work experience and perhaps information on your hard- and software (and VAT number if applicable). Passport numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, green cards, etc., are none of their business and completely irrelevant in the relationship you may ultimately develop with them.

I wonder what the client's reply would be if you asked them to supply all the social security numbers of their staff and a company credit report with that...


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:17
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
SSN required under some circumstances May 24, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

Even when the relationship is established, they have no use whatsoever for your social security number. I wouldn't give it out at all, no matter what kind of relationship I have with the client. You are not their employee, and so, the only things they have a use for is your name, address, contact details and a resume containing work experience and perhaps information on your hard- and software (and VAT number if applicable). Passport numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, green cards, etc., are none of their business and completely irrelevant in the relationship you may ultimately develop with them.


I notice you're in Canada (in which case you probably don't have an SSN unless you commute to the US to work). But for US persons, a US agency needs to report earnings if they pay you over $600 in any given calendar year, and they will need your SSN to do that. But by the time they pay you that much, you have a working relationship.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
SSN is required May 24, 2008

(Applies to the US only)

As I understand it, by IRS regulations the SSN is required to be given to the payer once a payment is coming, which can be refused until the SSN is supplied. The reporting requirement applies to at least $600 within a year, but records must be kept for smaller amounts including the SSN even though a report is not required.

That is only off the top of my head so I do not guarantee accuracy, but it can easily be researched by anyone interested.

That said, in my experience it appears that actual compliance with these regulations is rather sporadic at best. Some people are rather strict about it, while many others fail to report or sometimes report late, or never even ask for an SSN.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
US versus foreign outsourcers May 25, 2008

One area where I stand very firm is when foreign companies demand my Social Security Number. Usually if I press the matter, they admit there's no legal requirement for them to have it, but that their accountant or bookkeeper just likes to have a number associated with every payee.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:17
English to French
+ ...
SSN in Canada May 27, 2008

Paul Merriam wrote:

I notice you're in Canada (in which case you probably don't have an SSN unless you commute to the US to work).


We do have SSNs in Canada - even landed immigrants have them. The SSN is required when you get hired, when you want to open a bank account, when you sign up for certain utilities - we just can't live without them. But because the SSN is a key to so many different services (mostly government and financial), it is also easy to just steal somebody's SSN and thereby steal their identity. We have this identity theft problem - and the government keeps telling us regularly not to give out our SSNs unless it is legitimate to ask for it. We need the SSN as employees - but not as independents. None of my clients has my SSN...

Paul Merriam wrote:

But for US persons, a US agency needs to report earnings if they pay you over $600 in any given calendar year, and they will need your SSN to do that. But by the time they pay you that much, you have a working relationship.


I understand. I so wouldn't want to be in that situation... I don't want to imagine the moment when I get an account statement under my name for a cruise ship trip I never even heard of...


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