Should I give out my Social Security Number to the College Board?
Short answer: You are not required to, so it’s really a personal decision, but… no. In fact, you should try to avoid giving it out as much as possible.
When you register for the SAT, at some point during the very lengthy registration process, College Board will ask you for your Social Security Number (SSN). If you click on the right place while you’re registering (Something like “Why is College Board asking me for my SSN?”), you will see information that says something like this (I’m paraphrasing and expanding a bit): “Your SSN is a unique number that only you have, so this helps us confirm your identity and keep you from cheating on the SAT. This also helps us keep better records. We will really try to keep your information secure, but if we get hacked in the future, we’ll try to notify you. Providing your SSN is optional. You are NOT required to provide your SSN.”
I have strong beliefs about privacy on the Internet, and I believe that people, especially young people, should not freely share their information (including their SSNs, passwords, email address, home address, phone numbers, etc.) to whatever website requests it. It is not safe to do so, and many very large and established organizations have had security leaks that have allowed personal information, including SSNs, to fall into the hands of unknown people. Laptops get stolen, records get copied, computers get hacked, etc.
So, why is it so important to protect your SSN? Of all the bits of “issued” or identifying information that you have, your SSN is the one bit of information that people cannot easily discover. People can find out your address, your age, your birthday, and scores of other things about about, if they look hard enough. And even your credit card numbers aren’t necessarily safe–do you know what that waiter does when he takes your card away for a few minutes? No, you don’t. And yes, it has happened that waiters have worked in collusion with scammers to steal credit card numbers to max out accounts before the unwitting victim could stop it from happening. (I should note that I worked in many restaurants in my previous life as a college student, and I never saw this happen. But happen it does, if infrequently.)
And the SSN is the one bit of information that is highly coveted by credit card thieves. Once scammers have that number, with a bit of publicly-accessible information, it’s not too hard to start stealing your identity, which basically means that people start opening bank accounts and getting credit cards in your name and buying things under your name!
I think I’m ranting a bit, and to many people, my advice is obvious. Yet I deal with people every day who are unaware of basic security precautions such as keeping your SSN safe and private, so I’m trying to get my point across to those people.