Is giving out the last 4 of your SSN bad?
May 15, 2015 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Just gave the last 4 digits of my social to a recruiter who contacted me about an open position at a big company. I did it without thinking and now I am concerned I've done a bad thing. Recruiter said that big company uses that number to track me in their application system. Is this a normal practice on the part of recruiters or did I just screw up the safety of my SSN? If the latter, what do I do?
posted by Hermione Granger to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well based on the prefixes if not that hard to get very close to someones SSN...
posted by Mac-Expert at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2015

Most - all? - people asking for the last 4 digits of an SSN are asking for a 4-digit PIN that you won't forget. You should have a handy 4-digit combo in mind to hand out on such occasions. But given that you've already handed this info over, making a big fuss would just draw attention to it. I say let it go.

(After all, if contractors working on your passport are making personal copies for identity theft purposes, what chance do you have anyway?)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2015

I have had an in-house recruiter ask for this number. I gave him a different 4 digit number and told him it was a 4 digit number they could use to track me, but it would not match with my SSN when I filled out my w-9. She was ok. I think the exact thing she said was, "Whatever, I just need a number they can use in their system." Did not get the job, so there is that.
posted by AugustWest at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Assuming that you trust that the recruiter is who they say they are, I wouldn't worry about it. And honestly if the recruiter was a scam artist they would just ask you for your full SSN because plenty of people would hand that over without thinking. My SSN has been stolen from every school I've ever attended. Doesn't keep me up at night and if you monitor your credit annually like you should, then I wouldn't even give it a second thought.
posted by acidic at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2015

I've run into a fair number of phone customer service situations where they ask for the last four of your social. Cable companies and banks typically have SS numbers on file, for example. So technically, that recruiter or anyone at the company who has access to the application system could take your four digits, your birthday, your address, and probably impersonate you here and there. I would not worry about it too much, but next time I would make up a number, without explaining it to them.

But really, companies should knock this off. They can easily track you with the last four of your cellphone number, instead, if they really need a tracking number.
posted by beagle at 1:10 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to work doing customer service for an employee benefits program and credit card rewards for a major auto maker in the US. The last four digits of the SSN was part of the verification process when I started, but later it was taken out and we were forbidden from asking for that information. The explanation we were given was that it was now illegal to ask for it.

It may have been a bad idea to give it to them, but it was also a terrible idea for them to ask you for it. Maybe it's a state law, not national, but I don't think they should have asked you for that.
posted by Promethea at 2:07 PM on May 15, 2015

It is 1 number in 9999 and not that super unique first of all. Second, some places use it to verify that you are the person, for when you call on the phone. They are looking at your "last four digits" on their screen and what you say should match what they're showing. Third, like others are saying, some places just need you to have a four digit number you will always remember - I have to use mine on the hand scanner when I enter school in the morning and it is my "password" when I need to use the copier. I work with about 50 people and two employees actually had the same last four digits; they kept having trouble getting locked out until someone noticed the coincidence.
Relax, don't worry about it.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks you guys. I don't know this recruiter at all and normally I put up a fight if someone asks for that info but I let it slip. I'll use my faux number next time instead.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:17 PM on May 15, 2015

I would not give any part of my SSN out to a potential employer unless I had a job offer in hand and they needed it for payroll purposes. Otherwise, there is no good reason why they need it prior to hiring you.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 2:27 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

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