In Canada the government issues Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) and in US the government issues Social Security Numbers (SSN).
In both Canada and the US, anyone asking for your SIN/SSN wants it to verify your identification and possibly to do a credit check. It also helps them organize their files internally because each SIN/SSN number is guaranteed to be unique.
For private businesses, they prefer to have your SIN/SSN in case they have to collect from you.
But unless the person or business requesting your SIN/SSN number has a legal right to do so, you don’t have to give it to them, and I strongly recommend you refuse to give it to anyone you aren't legally required to.
Now the list of who has a legal right differs in both Canada and the US.
In Canada, there are a few federal government departments and programs that are specifically authorized to collect your SIN/SSN and you can click here to know which ones. Some private-sector organizations must also collect your SIN/SSN number for income reporting purposes such as employers, or banks where you have investments.
When opening an bank account, the bank has to report any interest you earn on money in your account to Canada Revenue Agency. At some banks you can make your life even easier by specifically asking to open a non-interest bearing chequing account to be sure they don’t try to push you to disclose your SIN/SSN number.
Other than that, if anyone asks you for it, it’s for ID purposes or a credit check, and you should either leave the space blank if it’s a form you’re filling out, or if it’s in person, ask them why they want it, and tell them that you don’t give out your SIN/SSN number but you’re willing to explore other ways for them to verify your identity.
In Canada, you can’t be denied a product or service for refusing to provide your SIN number when it’s not legally required. So if they do refuse because you refused to provide your SIN/SSN number, be sure to file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and you can click here for that.
The only exception I know of to this is Hydro Quebec. They can refuse to provide hydro if you don’t give it to them.
For more examples of when you don’t need to disclose your SIN/SSN number, click here.
In the US, things are similar, except that all bank accounts require your SIN number.
One big difference is that eventhough you’re not required to disclose your SIN number to private businesses, the business does not have to provide you with service if you refuse to release it.
This might vary state to state, so you should definitely look into the laws that apply to your state.
Has anyone asked for your SIN number that shouldn't have? Hit like if they have, even if you're not watching this live, I'm checking your comments all the time*
If you know someone who cares about their privacy as much as you do, now that you know what you’re REALLY supposed to say when a creditor asks for your social insurance or social security number, and WHY they always try to trick you into giving it, they'll be grateful you shared this post with them.
The Social Insurance Number Code of Practice Annex 2 - Authorized federal uses of the SIN
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Examples of when you do not need to provide your SIN