Does a Police Officer Have a Right to Demand Your Social Security Number?

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“Does a police officer have the right to ask for your social security number when giving you a ticket? I have never heard of such a thing and several family and friends that I have asked what they thought, they have never heard of it either. What recourse do I have?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

There are no laws that I’m aware of that require you to provide a police officer with your Social Security Number (SSN). Generally speaking, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2004 allowed police to arrest you for failure to tell them your name, even if you have done nothing wrong. But the court stopped short of requiring you to produce identification without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

Generally, the US Constitution allows everyone to walk the streets without carrying ID. However, there are reasonable exceptions. For example, every state requires you to produce your driver’s license while operating a motor vehicle. But when it comes to your SSN, there is no law requiring you to either carry your SSN with you or to memorize it. Indeed, there are good reasons for not keeping your SSN in your wallet. For example, if your wallet is lost or stolen, your SSN can potentially be used by an identity thief to access your credit card account information.

So your best recourse against both police who ask for it and anybody else who asks for it without a legal basis for doing so is to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”

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Author: Ray Everett-Church, Esq.

Ray Everett-Church is a privacy and security consultant with PrivacyClue LLC and is co-author of "Internet Privacy for Dummies"