This issue has troubled me for a long time. I see absolutely NO reason that a legitimate employer or a recruiter would require a job seeker to provide their SSN on an application, their resume, or anywhere in the hiring process before references are being checked and an offer is pending. However, some do require it.
It baffles me that a legitimate employer would want the liability associated with protecting this information. Most of them, when they answer honestly, would not want to provide the information themselves, so why are they asking/demanding that job seekers provide it?
Gerry Crispin, corporate recruiting guru of CareerXRoads.com, recommends that job seekers provide a bogus SSN.
Although I prefer honesty in all my "transactions" with fellow humans, in this instance, I must agree with Gerry. I recommend taking Gerry's strategy a step further - when you are required by a LEGITIMATE employer or recruiter (verify, first!) to provide your SSN - provide almost your real SSN.
Not the real thing, but almost...
For example, convert this SSN, # # # - # # - # # # #, into a very similar number, e.g. # # # - # 2 - 3 # 5 # .
"Sorry! Just typed that a little too fast," when/if you get asked about your SSN being invalid later in the recruitment process. Hopefully, by that point, they'll be so interested in you that they'll forgive you for typing too fast. If they have an IQ above room temperature, they'll probably understand why you did it, and sympathsize, even privately.
This is NOT an ideal solution, but, when the employer/recruiter is legitimate, it’s the best one I can see.
Gerry has suggested that there will be an expensive law suit sometime soon associated with this issue, with an employer paying a severe penalty for collecting and storing this information about job seekers.
I hope he's right, and I hope that the pain from that law suit causes employers to stop requiring this of job seekers. It is neither nice, nor wise, to demand this extremely sensitive information be provided too early in the hiring process.