If businesses ask for your Social Security number and have no legal reason to do so, tell them you are concerned about identity theft and...

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If businesses ask for your Social Security number and have no legal reason to do so, tell them you are concerned about identity theft and don’t want to divulge it, says Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego.

Turn the tables.

Ask why they need it and how the information would be used.

Some businesses won’t insist. If one does, ask if another number could be used, such as a driver’s license, Givens said.

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Major credit bureaus ask for a Social Security number when consumers request a credit report.

Evan Hendricks, editor of Privacy Times newsletter, recommends giving the number to the bureaus, since they generally already have it and are using the number for authentication purposes.

Be prepared, though, for companies deciding not to do business with you if you don’t give them the information they want.