Employer Alert: Why You Should Never Ask for Personal Information Online or in Emails

Human resources departments shouldn’t ask for social security numbers or personal information online or in emails. If you do and your system is not secure, you could be opening the company to an unnecessary lawsuit.

There’s a world of hackers and identity thieves out there just waiting to gain access to information that they can exploit and use to their benefit. A security consultant that specializes in scams and identity theft stated before Congress, “Social security numbers are more susceptible and valuable than ever.” Over the last several years, many companies have adopted the convenience of having employees and potential applicants email their social security numbers and birth dates. However, while it is legal to ask for this information from a qualified candidate, you should always have him/her fill out the information in person and avoid submitting anything electronically.

Additionally, 12 states ban social security numbers from being printed on documents that are mailed. This includes tax forms, etc. Some states have exceptions for medical services, insurance, fraud prevention or law enforcement. However, it is best to check with your state’s legislature to make sure you can mail tax forms, request social security information or anything else that contains sensitive information.

The states that restrict mailing social security numbers within a mailing envelope are as follows: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont.

You can legally ask an applicant for his/her birth date during the job screening process. However, the key to misusing this information is if the company discriminates against someone for his/her age. Age is protected under the Age Discrimination Act of 1967. Employers request date of birth and social security information to facilitate background checks, which is commonplace in the big business world. Background checks usually check commercial, criminal or even financial records depending upon the type of job the applicant is seeking.

Employers, however, cannot ask any age-related questions. Date of birth should only be used for informational purposes.

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