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Why Do Internet Service Providers Ask for an SSN?

When you’re choosing a new internet service provider (ISP), you may be confused about why you need to provide your SSN. While this is common practice for most major internet service providers, it can have customers scratching their heads. If you are perplexed as to why you need to fork over your credentials, you’re not alone. But there is a reasonably simple and benign reason behind this requirement.

Internet Service Providers need access to your SSN to identify who you are and run a credit check. This will allow the company to provide the equipment and services you need without too much risk to them. 

Let’s face it; almost everyone needs your SSN these days. It has become a popular tool to identify people, even though that’s not necessarily its intended purpose. For most ISPs, the SSN is a way to run a credit check. This will help them determine what deposit if any, your account may require. Let’s learn more about ISPs and why your SSN is so essential.

Why Do Internet Service Providers Need a Social Security Number?

Notebook with ISP Internet Service Provide on it

When you choose to go with an ISP, they have to send service technician to initially set up your home network and WiFi access. They will usually provide the modem and router or modem-router combo. Because of this, ISPs want to protect their investments. For example, let’s say a customer wants to get subscribed. Not only will they need to rent out the equipment, but several man-hours may be needed for a proper installation. All this costs money. Money that the ISP is hoping to recoup through subscription fees.

To make sure you’re a good investment for them and won’t cause any problems, they’ll require a credit check. Credit checks have become the new norm when it comes to gaining access to things. You need one to get financing, rent a home, and now to get the internet. But if you think about it, it makes sense. These companies don’t want you walking off with hundreds of dollars worth of their equipment. For this reason, you need to fork over your SSN. While it might seem out of place, it is more than normal practice.

There are also a few other personal details they may need like your work history, date of birth, and monthly income. All these will help them determine if you will be a good customer. This means paying on time and returning the equipment in good condition. Additionally, having your credit attached to your ISP account gives you more incentive to play nicely with your ISP. If you miss a payment, default on an account, or fail to return their equipment, they can and will send you to collections which will hurt your credit score.

It’s good to note that most credit checks from internet service providers are soft credit checks or soft pulls. This shouldn’t negatively effect your credit score. But if this is a major concern for you, simply ask the ISP beforehand. They should be able to provide you with a clear answer.

What Happens if You Don’t Share Your SSN?

All of this information comes with a huge caveat, however. In the United States, ISPs are considered telecommunications companies. This means that the internet providers are actually utilities in the eyes of the law. Consequently, they’re not allowed to require an SSN for service as a result.

This is excellent news for those who are wary of giving out their personal details. Additionally, there could be other situations where a person can’t provide an SSN. Here are some other situations to think about:

  • Not everyone in the U.S is a citizen. Accordingly, they don’t have an SSN. These people still deal with ISP and get internet access.
  • People with bad credit. While they have an SSN, their credit will still put them in a unique situation.
  • Companies and businesses. Since these entities don’t have an SSN, there needs to be ways to work around them.

If you walk into your ISP and refuse to give your SSN, you certainly won’t be the first nor will you be the last. There are plenty of people who keep privacy a priority and don’t want to give out personal info. If this is the case, you might be met with some frustration. While this may be a pain, there are options for you. Let’s find out what they are.

How to Sign Up for Internet Service if You Don’t Have an SSN

If you don’t want to use your SSN, here is what the situation will be like. First, you will most likely need to hand over a significant deposit. Since you don’t have your credit score to back up your word, the ISPs will need extra precautions. This is all because they need to protect their equipment and investment.

This deposit may be substantial and include the equipment’s total cost plus two to three months of service. All told, you may be looking at several hundred dollars just to get things connected. This can be a hurdle for those with bad credit as well.

One thing to note is that this is a deposit. This means it’s still your money. As long as you are a good customer and return all your equipment, they should return everything to you. Then money is just in your provider’s account and not yours. Some ISP will even provide interest for deposits made.

After several years of timely payments, there may be enough trust built to return the deposit. This may take a while and is in the hands of your ISP. Additionally, when you disconnect the service, your deposit will also be returned.