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When to Give Out Your Social Insurance Number

When to Give Out Your Social Insurance Number

It may not happen often, but when someone asks, do you know when to give out your social insurance number?

You’ve probably heard about the Equifax privacy breach. Millions of American citizens had their data (including the social security numbers) potentially leaked/stolen. The number of Canadians affected is still unknown, but could be upwards of 100,000.

What this hack has taught us, is that we should all take steps to make sure our privacy is as protected as we can possibly make it. One key piece of personal data that all Canadians share is our SIN numbers. Sometimes we get asked for it – but when is it appropriate to share? Here are some answers.

Who’s allowed to ask you for your social insurance number?

Some government institutions as well as private businesses will ask for your Social Insurance Number as a way of identification. In fact, many use it as client account numbers in order to avoid setting up their own numbering systems.

Anyone can ask for your SIN, but the better question is: when are you required to give it?

According to Employment and Social Development Canada, it’s not illegal for a private sector organization asking for your SIN, though highly discouraged. Though not a requirement, a private institution may ask for your SIN when you are applying for a job, applying for a credit card, writing a will, applying for a college or university admission, signing up for phone services, and filling medical questionnaires.

When not to give out your SIN

In all these institutions, it is your choice to provide your SIN since none of them are legally mandated to collect it. Instead, explain you would rather not provide it and opt for a different identification document consistent with the federal government regulations.

Here are some more tips from the federal government on protecting your Social Insurance Number and, in the process, protecting yourself from potential fraud:

  • Never provide your SIN over the phone unless you made the call and are confident you know who’s on the other end.
  • Never reply to emails asking for personal information such as your SIN.
  • Shred paper records on which your SIN is recorded once you no longer need them.
  • Never provide your SIN over a mobile phone. This should only be with an exception of when you made the call and confident of the integrity of the receiver.

Protecting the integrity of your SIN is paramount. Be extra vigilant of whom you give this important number. For more information on the social insurance number code of practice, visit this Government of Canada’s website.

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