Macy’s Wants Your Social Security Number For A Gift Card Return

Reader George writes in because Macy’s asked his wife for her Social Security Number when she tried to return a pair of jeans she bought online with a gift card. No, she wasn’t trying to get cash back. Yes, she had all the documentation from Macys.com.

George writes:

    When it was finally our turn, my wife handed over her jeans still in the original plastic shipping pouch with the invoice and all the other paper work it came with. The cashier started punching all sorts of buttons (Why does it always take so many keystrokes for clothing store employees to ring up an order?).

    She then asked my wife for her drivers license. It seemed like a semi-reasonable request to verify her identity and help avoid return fraud, so my wife dug our her drivers license. After some more serious key mashing, the cashier pointed to the credit card terminal and asked my wife for her Social Security Number. Wait a minute! Time out! There is no way we are giving my wife’s Social Security Number after this sales associate just took down my wife’s driver’s license info (full name, address, eye color, etc.). The thought of this employee opening a home equity line of credit with this info flashed through my mind.

Eventually George’s wife had to speak to a manager to get out of giving up her SSN.

Now, we hear a lot of stupid crap while doing this job, and we are somewhat numb to it, but this really ticks us off. Who in their right mind would give their SSN out to someone just to put a pair of jeans back onto a gift card?!

We checked out Macy’s return policy for returning items bought online to the bricks-and-mortar store. There is no mention of this “policy” on their site. Macy’s, we’d like you to explain yourselves. Consumers, be like George’s wife, do NOT give your Social Security Number to someone just to get store credit on a pair of jeans. For pete’s sake!! —MEGHANN MARCO

SSN for Returns at Macy’s? [Fat Pitch Financials]
Macy’s Return Policy [Macys]

Comments

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  1. Blue says:

    Many, many people would give thier SSN. As consumers, collectivly we are stupid. People at registers happily give there phone numbers or zipcodes. It gives them a feeling of importance that a big retialers is so curious about who their customers are. Simple minded Sheeple we are!

  2. dancemonkey says:

    If you’re stupid enough to give you SSN to Macy’s, they have you punch it in on their credit card keypad.

    Now get this…

    the numbers are not masked!

    It shows your social in all its secret glory for every shoulder surfer to see!

  3. homerjay says:

    Whats wrong with giving a zip code? Thats probably the ONLY thing I give them freely. They know nothing of me by getting my zip code. They NEVER get my phone number.

  4. spanky says:

    People don’t have to be dumb to give our their SSNs. All they have to be is a little too trusting. Not the same thing, and neither is anything to get snarky about.

    We should be directing our ire toward Macy’s here, not some poor putative schmucks who are maybe a little too compliant for their own good.

    Oh, and I’ve always found arguments using the term ‘sheeple’ to be simplistic and lacking in nuance, ironically enough.

  5. d0x says:

    My girlfriend used to freely give information to stores whenever they asked. Name, address, phone number, whatever.

    Then she met me and I told her exactly what that data was used for, what could possibly happen to it and why its just a bad idea in general to give information out. Now she wont even give out her zip code!

    The point im making here is the same as the one above, lots of people will give anyone any information, it doesnt matter if there is a good reason or not.

  6. some_stupid_nut says:

    I worked Macy’s part time this winter and it is very common. We asked peoples SSN all the time. Been two weeks since I worked register so I forgot exactly what situations it asks for SSN, but the system asks for it all the time. I only got one person refuse to do it and he was so busy talking to us about identity theft he left his keys. Lots of other stores do it as well, it isnt just Macy’s.

  7. Hitchcock says:

    Just make up a random 9 digit number. Unless they are doing a credit check, it won’t make any difference.

  8. Shenanigans Was Taken says:

    @ some_stupid_nut

    Just because “everyone” does it does not make it right.

  9. Keter says:

    The reason stores ask for your zip code is they are planning a store relocation or expansion and want to know where the best place to put the new store will be. Pretty sure there’s no security risk there.

  10. Xkeeper says:

    NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES

    Unfortunately, no one remembers that line that appears on every SSN card issued.

  11. Amry says:

    Actually, something new and totally shady I learned recently –

    The zip code collection thing isn’t always about researching where customers come from; if the store is collecting your zip code and you pay with a credit card, they are are often using your name, cc#, and zip code to find your address to put you on their mailing list. I am certain that they have to disclose this as they ask for zip codes, but am similarly certain that many cashiers simply don’t understand the importance of disclosing this and consumers never get the memo.

    I always thought giving out my zip code was totally innocent and helped stores in researching new locations, so always gave it out freely. No more!

  12. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    Where I work, when someone returns without a receipt or doesn’t sign their credit card, we have to ask for a driver’s license. It amazes me how many people have their social security number as their driver’s license number. If I were a different type of person, I could have so many credit cards by now.

  13. Hawkins says:

    just
    make
    one
    up

  14. superbmtsub says:

    You should always be able to say NO. Prior to readin Consumerist, i was yes, one of em “sheeple” but grew wiser. Jus say NO (to drugs)!

  15. Sudonum says:

    I’ve used card readers for gas stations in different locations (Miami and New Orleans come to mind) that asked for the billing zip code allegedly for security purposes.

  16. juri squared says:

    I can understand getting DL info off someone looking for cash in that circumstance. (We do it at GameStop to help protect ourselves from fencers). I don’t think it’s at all necessary for someone looking for an exchange.

    As for SSN – hell no. They have absolutely no right to ask for it, either.

  17. Charmander says:

    I always give a fake zip code. Lately, it’s been 02134, which is about as far away from my zip code as you can possibly get.

    Also, when they ask for your phone number, make one up! 555-something or other. Works for me.

    As for the SSN – like others have said, never give it out.

  18. robertseaton says:

    Always the same response from me when they ask for the Zip Code….

    90210 (I like it better when they don’t get it).

  19. driver905 says:

    I called Mediacom cable to change my service and the rep asked me for the last 4 digits of my SSN to confirm my identity. Assuming that I must have it to them before I told them. She answered, “hmmm, thats not what I have here, my screen says ####” and told me the answer! (which was not my right number anyway.) She said I could update my records with my correct SSN if I liked (without ever having proved I am who I was!). Let me understand this, you ask me a secret question to confirm my identity but if I get it wrong you tell me then answer! and let me change it! How is that security? I did not give them my SSN, but was forced to give something to make my change so I gave them my drivers license number, hoping that would be less dangerous.

  20. acambras says:

    The other day I joined Planet Fitness — $10 per month and no contract (yay).

    During the application process, the girl asked for my SSN. Having been well-educated here on Consumerist, I told her there was absolutely no reason for PF to need my SSN. She agreed and skipped it.

  21. vanilla-fro says:

    @ acambras,
    watch out for planet fitness if you move to somewhere they are not and forget about the membership. they automatically take payment every month and to cancel you have to send the request certified mail or go to the one where you signed up. of course i’m sure they cancel it right away once you send the letter, but i haven’t found out yet. I just now noticed that the 10.89 or whatever it is keeps getting taken from me every month. you can’t cancel by phone.

    on the ssn, i never give it out.

  22. acambras says:

    Thanks, vanilla-fro — yes, I know sometimes it can be very difficult to cancel memberships to anywhere that has automatic billing.

    Another thing I learned from Consumerist — I am doing the automatic payments by credit card vs. draft from checking. Nobody — PayPal, Planet Fitness, or anyone else — is getting their grubby little hands in my checking account.

  23. bayouborne says:

    Fry’s has a similar program. 3 weeks ago a pretty sales-clerk walked up and began to describe a monthly loyalty progran Fry’s is rolling out. “Was I interested?” Yep. We proceeded to the sales kiosk and the 3rd or 4th thing she asks for is my SSN. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Surely that’s not required”? It was, and I walked.

    You would think Fry’s would know better.

  24. 567-68-0515 : Richard Nixon’s SSN.

    All companies that can’t verify my SSN (i.e. everyone but my employer, the IRS, and people I’m authorizing to do a credit check) get that one. That way if they try to use it to identify me later, I can repeat it. Though lately, with all the attention on ID theft, I’ve just been laughing right in their wrinkly little faces.

    My boy got a MasterCard gift card for his birthday, and when he went to the site to register it (which you have to do to use it online), the info form wanted his SSN! IN PLAIN TEXT! Thankfully, it wasn’t a required field, but what the hell are these people thinking? You’d think that, as a corporation which could wind up responsible if sensitive information is stolen, you’d want to have no more of it on your servers than you actually needed.

    Oh, wait, that had the word “think” in it, didn’t it… ;)

  25. MarcAnthony says:

    The answer to this problem is simple, stop shopping at silly old Macy’s. They suck anyways. Go to Nordstrom! You get the best customer service, and you can do an online return at any register, and I swear it only takes about 40 seconds! Don’t even need your credit card, it automatically reverts to the original form of payment without having to pull out your wallet.

  26. shoegazer says:

    when I was road tripping from Orlando to Jersey last month with my family from the Philippines. My dad tried to buy gas on his (Philippine) Mastercard and it asked him for a zip code. I entered 90210 for a laugh. I don’t know why they would need this sort of info for gassing up – we initially thought it was an additional verification level.

  27. Uurp says:

    When I lived in Arkansas, the state’s DMV was thoughful enough to include a big, bold SSN on everyone’s driver’s license.

  28. Crim Law Geek says:

    XKeeper:
    Older SSA cards used to say “Not for identification”. My revision 2004 card doesn’t say it, and neither did my previous one (issued in the early 1990’s). The newer ones doe say not to carry it with you and to sign it immediately.

  29. spryte says:

    e-gadgetjunkie: What exactly did you mean by “It amazes me how many people have their social security number as their driver’s license number.” As in, they give you their SS# instead of their DL#? It sounds like you’re saying their DL# is the SAME as their SS# which I have a hard time believing…

    some_stupid_nut: The point, though, is not really whether or not it was company policy vs. this employee being a sneaky bastard…the point is that there is no reason whatsoever why Macy’s or any other store would need that information, especially in order to process a simple merchandise return. Even if I trusted every department store employee to the utmost degree, how do I know what level of security Macy’s has on their computer systems? People hack into anything and everything, and if some unscrupulous person knows you collect SS#s, he/she might just have themselves a party.

    This makes me want to start buying and returning stuff to my local Macy’s to see if they ask me for it, so I can ask the manager why the fuck they would possibly need it (perhaps in nicer language…).

  30. pestie says:

    Want to have some fun? Here are some good data to feed the bastards who demand it:

    Zip code: 20505 (belongs exclusively to the CIA)

    SSN: 548-60-3388 (used as a test SSN by some credit bureaus and has countless names attached to it, like Jonathan Q. Consumer)

  31. handyrae says:

    Shoot–When asked for my phone number or zip code I just make something up. I like to think I’m doing my very small part to screw up their data mining/marketing studies. I also have all those grocery store discount cards in my cat’s name at a totally wrong address. It makes me smile.

  32. novajosh says:

    Spryte,
    some states use/used a person’s social security number as their driver’s license number.
    In Virginia around 1997 for example, by default your DLN was your SSN. When I renewed my license I requested a different number. I’m not sure if the default DLN in VA is still your SSN and you have to request otherwise. Yes, it is stupid, but I’m sure other states do or did it too at one point.

  33. robertseaton says:

    Zip code: 20505 (belongs exclusively to the CIA)–nice one