Comcast: "The Patriot Act" Mandates We Need Your SSN

Ryan wanted to order new Comcast service but balked at their request for a Social Security number. When he asked why they needed it, the Comcast chat rep said “The Patriot Act” required it. That doesn’t sound right to us, or to Ryan. His story and full screenshot of the chat, inside…

UPDATE 1:How To Get Utilities And Phone Service Without Giving Up Your SSN
UPDATE 2: Comcast Admits Error In Requiring SSN Under “Patriot Act”

Ryan writes:

After completing the order procedure on their website I was directed to a live chat window. After waiting about twenty minuets a Analyst joined the chat. She immediately requested I provide my Social security number in order to open a new account. I refused to provide my SSN and asked for details as to why it was required. Her answer is that the Patriot Act requires them to get my Social Security number.

As you can see in the transcript I attached, she referred me to their legal department. I actually asked for the phone number five to ten seconds before she closed the chat. But when I viewed the chat transcript it says the chat was closed before I asked. That is a neat trick.

Can what she told me actually be true? …I don’t believe [the Patriot Act] requires me to provide my SSN just to get Internet service.

I think the Comcast rep somehow thinks that Comcast falls under the “Know Your Customer” clause of the Patriot Act. As far as I understand it, that only applies to financial companies or financial intermediaries, neither of which I believe Comcast qualifies as.

RELATED: Know Your Customer – Patriot Act [Wikipedia]

Comments

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  1. acknight says:

    I don’t think an public webchat (even if over https) with an *analyst* is exactly a smart place to give that out, anyways.

    • sockrockinbeats says:

      @acknight: Seriously. These poor folks are getting paid about $10/hr (at least in our area), who’s to say what they’ll do with your SSN once they’ve got it? Even if their chat client is secure or whatever…

    • D14BL0 says:

      @acknight: Do you realize just how many SSNs they deal with a day? I work technical support, myself, and I have people read off their full SSN all the time, for verifying accounts or establishing new service. It’s a secure way to verify somebody’s identity before giving them new service.

  2. johnnya2 says:

    I will defer to the Social Security Administration on this one. This is taken directly from their website:
    [ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov]

    When am I legally required to provide my Social Security number?
    Question
    Must I provide a Social Security number (SSN) to any business or government agency that asks?
    Answer

    The Social Security number was originally devised to keep an accurate record of each individual’s earnings, and to subsequently monitor benefits paid under the Social Security program. However, use of the number as a general identifier has grown to the point where it is the most commonly used and convenient identifier for all types of record-keeping systems in the United States.

    Specific laws require a person to provide his/her number for certain purposes. While we cannot give you a comprehensive list of all situations where a number might be required or requested, a Social Security number is required/requested by:

    * Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans;
    * Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes;
    * States for the school lunch program;
    * Banks for monetary transactions;
    * Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number;
    * Department of Labor for workers’ compensation;
    * Department of Education for Student Loans;
    * States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law within its jurisdiction;
    * States for child support enforcement;
    * States for commercial drivers’ licenses;
    * States for Food Stamps;
    * States for Medicaid;
    * States for Unemployment Compensation;
    * States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; or
    * U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds

    The Privacy Act regulates the use of Social Security numbers by government agencies. When a federal, state, or local government agency asks an individual to disclose his or her Social Security number, the Privacy Act requires the agency to inform the person of the following: the statutory or other authority for requesting the information; whether disclosure is mandatory or voluntary; what uses will be made of the information; and the consequences, if any, of failure to provide the information.

    If a business or other enterprise asks you for your number, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and other services ask for a Social Security number, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means.

    Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask why your number is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.
    For more detailed information, we recommend the publication Your Social Security Number And Card .

    • mac-phisto says:

      @johnnya2:

      Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly.

      i always found this line to pretty much be bulldookey. while applying to state or federal government positions, you always get this line: you are not required to provide your social security number to complete an application, however we cannot process the application without your social security number.

      hooray doublespeak!

      • Orv says:

        @mac-phisto: What it comes down to is that giving your number is voluntary, but if you choose not to provide the number they can choose not to do business with you.

  3. mac-phisto says:

    yeah, i don’t think the SSN is required for compliance w/ patriot, HOWEVER, it is a necessary component for pulling your credit report (which is generally what most of these companies do before implementing service).

  4. silver-bolt says:

    Verizon dsl account, created in 2005. No ssn required.

  5. Mollyg says:

    Some states have laws which prohibit businesses from requiring a SSN. I know that NM is one of them. I would suggest checking your state law.

  6. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    After 9/11, we need to make sure Terrorists can’t get to watch fine cable programming such as “Corey In The House” and “Drawn Together”. That’d be downright un-American.

    • Rhayader says:

      @Applekid: Haha! Yeah, that sort of information can be dangerous in the hands of someone trying to destroy our wonderful heritage of mad-lib style TV writing and constant commercials.

    • @Applekid: Hell, we’ll be damned if we allow the terrorists to *shudder* promote competition against Comcast and TW cable companies! We’ll need your first born along with your SSN too.

  7. ViperBorg says:

    That’s one shady rep. I would not be doing business with Comcast trying to pull this crap off.

    Then again, I’d never do business with Comcast anyway. I’d rather castrate myself than be stuck doing business with them.

  8. superhumanben says:

    Comcast asked me when all I wanted to do was cancel service at one address and add it to a new address. They claimed it was because I was changing my service level at the same time so it was as if I was signing up for a new contract. Which to me was bull because I was STILL AN ACTIVE CUSTOMER!

  9. Juliekins says:

    I’m an AT&T customer (hi there, NSA, how’re ya doin?) and they’ve never asked for my SSN. Then again, I’ve been a customer for years, so it’s possible they asked for it a long time ago and I forgot.

    Still, that “Patriot Act” business is bullshit. I’d sooner believe they need it to run a credit check. I’m sure as shit not providing it in a (probably unencrypted) customer service chat room, either.

    • Juliekins says:

      @Juliekins: And I just spotted the little padlock, so it’s probably encrypted unless there are other circumstances (fake/expired cert, etc). Still, I wouldn’t give my SSN over chat.

      • ViperBorg says:

        @Juliekins: I’m also an AT&T customer (Hey, NSA, up yours) and, while I was not required to give my SSN at signup, 3 months later they locked my account down for fraud until I gave them information confirming that I was myself. That information HAD TO include, (I had no choice in the matter), my SSN.

        Up yours AT&T, you and the NSA and go and…
        I’m sure you can figure this one out between the two of you, hell, I’d bet you even had pratice.

    • rcorrino says:

      @Juliekins:

      Well there ya go. Why should they need to ask your SSN. They gots the NSA watchin their back

  10. junip says:

    That conversation looks shady to me. I wouldn’t have given my SSN either. They don’t need it.

    I remember going over the Patriot Act briefly when I worked as a personal banker, because the company was trying to stress that we needed all info properly documented for new accounts. Once had a guy with a totally fake number (all zeros or something) try to open a new account, and had a 10 minute debate with him over the fact that I couldn’t open a new account if he didn’t give me a real number. He ended up giving me one, but he could have just made it up. Patriot Act is a joke in my opinion.

  11. Guges says:

    They will try and get your SSN but you are not required to give it. The real reason for this is to check to see if you have any previous accounts that owe them money. If you don’t feel like giving your SSN, which you shouldn’t- a phone number or some other identifier can be used for the field to create a new account. They should know this and if not their supervisor should. They also can’t refuse to give you service without it either unless they have reason to believe you owe them money.

    ~G

    • ARP says:

      @Guges: “They also can’t refuse to give you service without it either unless they have reason to believe you owe them money.”

      I believe they can refuse to give you service if they can’t conduct their search on you. There’s nothing that says they have to give you service. The only reason they would HAVE to give you service is if the basis of the refusal is because they’re discriminating against you in violation of Federal or State law (race, religion, etc.)

  12. djsyndrome says:

    A few months ago I was asked to provide an SSN for new Comcast service, but was told up front it was for a credit check. This was via telephone; I was ordering two lines of service (Cable TV and Internet).

  13. nikkimarie says:

    I had a Comcast collections account on my credit report from years ago and a shitty roommate. I assume it’s on my credit report because they had my social security number but I don’t remember giving it to them.

  14. Pylon83 says:

    I agree that their explanation for requiring an SSN is bull. However, they can require one for credit check purposes and to ensure you don’t have previous accounts that are still delinquient. You are totally within your rights to refuse to provide your SSN, but understand that Comcast/ATT/Sprint/(insert any other company that does business on a credit basis) can (generally) refuse to do business with you. They are well within their rights to insist on a credit check before staring service and (possibly) handing you a $500 HD-DVR or $100 cable modem. I can understand not wanting to give your SSN over a chat, but to simply refuse to provide it altogether is pretty unreasonable, unless of course you have bad credit or do owe them money. Welcome to 2008 folks, companies aren’t that trusting anymore.

  15. temporaryerror says:

    I recall reading in a previous thread that a credit report could be pulled with just address and full name. I don’t recall a source for this though. Can anyone verify this?

  16. backbroken says:

    THAT explains why I saw the local Comcast installer taking a cable modem, DVR, and waterboard into my neighbor’s house the other day.

  17. HogwartsAlum says:

    I wonder if they would let you give your driver’s license number? I changed mine from my SSN to something innocuous, and use that instead.

  18. beeberoni says:

    yeah! i actually just opened an account with comcast last week, and a similar live chat CSR asked me repeatedly for my social security number. i gave her my last four, and she promptly told me that it would be impossible to setup an account without my whole ssn… and didn’t give me any answers when i asked her why they needed it. i gave it to her, but was suspicious afterwards. but after reading this i guess it wasn’t just me.

  19. Nighthawke says:

    I’d say EECB this one, some jerk of a rep needs to be cooked off, sent to the moon where he/she/it can be king of the world.

    Or so they think…

  20. LawyerontheDL says:

    The reason they want it isn’t even the credit check – they want it so that if you take off on your bill, they can track you down much easier and put it on your credit report.

  21. El_Fez says:

    Of course what’s to stop you from going “My Social Security number? Um. . . sure. It’s 867-53-09″ Dont want to give it up? Make something up! Easy peasy!

    • EricLecarde says:

      @El_Fez: Thats considered fraud and should never everrrrrr ever be done. BAD CONSUMER!!!

    • Lucky225 says:

      @El_Fez:
      Providing a false SSN as your own is a federal crime, just so you know. However TimeWarner made one up when I refused so I guess it’s up to them to prove who put it on the account

      • papahoth says:

        @Lucky225: Providing a false one to a private company is a Federal crime? I doubt that. Providing a false one to receive government benefits is.

        • HunterJoules says:

          @papahoth: I would think that if the “fake” SSN you provided actually happens to belong to someone else, you would be guilty of identity theft. Imagine some poor old woman in Idaho or something having her SSN assigned to someone else’s Comcast account.

          If it isn’t a crime, it’s certainly a mean thing to do.

    • Antediluvian says:

      @El_Fez: Don’t be silly. Just tell them you can’t remember it.

      I remember an episode (a later episode, one of the last) of “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall. He asked an elderly woman to repeat certain numbers, and she got a prize for each one she got right. Her phone number, the number of kids she had, anniversary date or something, junk like that. But the final number he asked her for was her SSN, and she gave it to him, and the studio audience, and the TV audience too.

  22. ornj says:

    Yeah that is a load of crap. I signed up for Comcast recently and I was able to give them enough information for a credit check with just my driver’s license.

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:08:37 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Your order requires credit verification. May I have your Social Security Number please?

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:09:07 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    This is done for your protection to prevent service from being placed in your name without your authorization. I can assure you that our chat is secure and that your information will not be retained.

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:10:10 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Did you receive my last message?

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:10:48 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I would think you could obtain my credit information with my Full Name.

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:31 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I build these sort of applications for a living and I can assure you that you can not assure me that my information is safe. Between you and me the connection is wide up to anyone who cares to listen.

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:31 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    May I use your Driver’s License Number as a means of identification instead?

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:54 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    yes you may

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:49 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I do understand your concern, Stephen.

    I’m glad I saved the whole conversation, it was quite a funny experience. Took a whole hour to get her to schedule an installation.

  23. linoth says:

    “It’s required for the PATRIOT Act.”
    >blind compliance<
    “Alright, what I have to do now is run a short credit check with our credit bureau…”

    As other commenters have point out, it’s to run a credit check on you and run you to ground if you try to skip on a bill. Quite fascinated by Comcast running their sign-ups through web chats now. Is it somehow cheaper than a call center?

  24. ornj says:

    That’s a load of crap, I was able to sign up for Comcast using my driver’s license,

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:08:37 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Your order requires credit verification. May I have your Social Security Number please?

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:09:07 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    This is done for your protection to prevent service from being placed in your name without your authorization. I can assure you that our chat is secure and that your information will not be retained.

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:10:10 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    Did you receive my last message?

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:10:48 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I would think you could obtain my credit information with my Full Name.

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:31 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I build these sort of applications for a living and I can assure you that you can not assure me that my information is safe. Between you and me the connection is wide up to anyone who cares to listen.

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:31 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    May I use your Driver’s License Number as a means of identification instead?

    Stephen_(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:54 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    yes you may

    Zhenaida.24715(Tue Jun 10 2008 15:11:49 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time))>

    I do understand your concern, Stephen.

  25. tmed says:

    Check your state law, but escalate this at Comcast for the “Patriot Act” lie.

  26. esd2020 says:

    Uh, what if you don’t have a SSN? If you’re here on a student visa you’re not allowed to get cable?

  27. GriffonJames says:

    My gripe with companies is that they wouldn’t need your SSN and wouldn’t need the expense of running a credit check if they simply offered their services on a pre-pay basis. No payment received? Just shut off the service. No need to report bad credit to the “agencies”.
    Sure, you could argue that a refusal to pay is the only leverage a consumer has when Comcast or Verizon or some other company doesn’t provide the contracted service. But these companies all demand payment and report you to the agencies even when they’re the ones at fault for not providing you with the contracted services! Their ability to extort payments by the implied threat to your credit score is a big risk.
    I’m so glad to receive cable internet from my town instead of from one of the big ISPs. No, it’s not pre-paid, but neither have I ever heard a complaint about their service or their management of customer information.

    • EricLecarde says:

      The Patriot Act is a utter lie. However, I will go on to say this. Giving out your social isn’t as scary as it used to be. At first I was very apprehensive to it, then I eventually saw the usefulness of it. My local cable provider and local phone provider gave me good reporting marks for my credit history when I needed a car loan. I check it every few months like any good consumer should that way no one has it and pulled something out in my name, but so far I’m good.

      But yeah, that crap about the patriot act is a lie. Most places make you put down a deposit of some sort or ask that you come in to verify your ID.

      @GriffonJames: That would be a great idea if only people would actually pay their bills on time. Otherwise, you’d have a lot of people calling in asking why their account was shut off. You’d be surprised how many people pay late

  28. DJFelix says:

    In order to comply with the FISA revisions made in the Patriot act, Comcast needs to know if you are a foreign national or not. Providing an SSN that can be verified to prove you are not a foreign national -*restricts*- the kinds of surveillance that Comcast can conduct. If you do not provide an SSN, or the SSN you provide can not be verified, Comcast can conduct -*more*- surveillance under the FISA Act, as modified by the Patriot Act, and it’s subsequent revisions.

    That’s why there is a mention of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act doesn’t require Comcast to request your SSN, or verify it, but if Comcast can prove you are a US citizen, the government has a higher burden of proof to conduct surveillance. Under FISA, if you are a foreign national, the bar is very low. Even before the Patriot Act.

  29. orlo says:

    Considering the only use of the Patriot Act so far was to catch Spitzer whoring, I expect the govt. now wants to see what kind of porn certain stubborn politicians are viewing. Based on the telecom immunity bill, the govt is now monitoring all communications and needs to tie every IP address to a SSN.

  30. AnxiousDemographic says:

    Well then I guess it’s time to found (or find) a religion with merciful and benevolent God who wants us to enjoy the autonomy granted by privacy.

    This comment was inspired by L. Ron Hubbard!

  31. spittingangels says:

    The cable company for our household is SuddenLink, the bill is in my roommates name and since I’m the most technical one when it comes to computers, I’m the one that calls them when we have service issues. I got the runaround before with them several times for the same issue: they refused assistance when I couldn’t provide them with my roommates SSN. So I asked him for his SSN and now I just pretend to be him when I call, it’s not like they know any better and I have his consent to do so.

    It still makes me feel weird having to do this though, just to get service from a company we are paying for. That fact that I am doing this defeats and semblance of security they claim the SSN requirement is for.

  32. Lucky225 says:

    42 USC 408 (a) (8) states:

    (a) In general
    Whoever-
    (8) discloses, uses, or compels the disclosure of the social security number of any person in violation of the laws of the United States;

    shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.

    I say the OP hold Comcast accountable for trying to compel the disclosure of a Social Security Number under the color of law and in violation of the Privacy Act.

    • Lucky225 says:

      @Lucky225:

      Also I don’t know where you are Ryan, but in California it is also against the law to make the SSN mandatory.
      So you could contact the PUC

      • Pylon83 says:

        @Lucky225:
        You’ve taken that statute completely and utterly out of Context. That particular clause is found within a set of statutes covering Federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability benefits. Thus, it would be entirely inapplicable in this situation.

        • Pylon83 says:

          @Pylon83:
          After reading what I wrote, I need to clarify. The statute is taken out of context, and Lucky225 ignores the fact that it only prohibits disclosure of a SSN IN VIOLATION OF US LAWS. Thus, there has to be another law that says you don’t have to give up your SSN in order for the penalty to kick in.

          • Mr.SithNinja says:

            @Lucky225: They aren’t making a SSN MANDATORY. There is an option to sign up in person with an ID. Try READING the whole story.

            • 2719 says:

              @Mr.SithNinja:

              My cable company bases accounts on SSN#. That way if you don’t pay your bills they will ding your credit score and send a collection agency after you. Also if you try to get service at another location you won’t be able until you pay your old bill.

              It has been like that for a long time.

          • Lucky225 says:

            @Pylon83:

            There is another law, The Privacy Act clearly states that a requester must let the person know weather or not the request is mandatory or voluntary. Comcast stated it was mandatory, and did so under the “Color of Law” (Privacy Act), it is not required by any Statute and so Comcast is compelling the disclosure in violation of the Privacy Act.

            • Pylon83 says:

              @Lucky225:
              That makes no sense. Perhaps you’d like to re-write your comment so that it’s intelligible. The way it reads, your logic is circular. “The Privacy act says Comcast has to let you know if the request is voluntary or mandatory. Comcast said it was mandatory. Since they said it’s mandatory, they are in violation of the Privacy Act.”

              • Lucky225 says:

                @Pylon83: They said it was mandatory “UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW” (The patriot act). 1) it isn’t mandatory for Comcast 2) Stating that it is mandatory under the color of law by falsely giving a fake statute or act and saying that the statute or Act requires it, when in fact it DOES NOT is a violation of the Privacy Act, as it compells the disclosure under false pretenses and doesn’t comply with the Privacy Act which requires them to tell which statute makes it mandatory, by giving a false statute, they have made a false statement, UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW. Thus they are compelling that information in VIOLATION of the law, and are liable.

                • Pylon83 says:

                  @Lucky225:
                  Well, you’re getting closer to making sense, though I still think you’re wrong. First off, the Patriot Act is not a fake statute. Second, are you absolutely positive that the Patriot Act doesn’t require this? Have you read the whole thing? I will admit that I have not, and that it likely doesn’t, but I’m not confident enough to say that it doesn’t. It’s got some pretty ridiculous provisions, so I wouldn’t really be entirely shocked if it did. Further, you have yet to cite the particular clause in the Privacy Act to which you refer.

  33. Antediluvian says:

    We fought with Verizon Wireless and ended up not giving them our numbers for a family plan, but broke down w/ AT&T to sign up for an iPhone (because of the online registration).

    It’s a lot easier to get around the SSN requirement on the phone or in person than via a web form or chat which probably has validation checks on the fields to ensure they’re filled in properly.

    • Lucky225 says:

      @Antediluvian:

      AT&T doesn’t require an SSN either. When they switched to Cingular they tried to get me to cough it up on a contract upgrade and I stayed firm, Cingular didn’t get it either, nor did the NEW AT&T after Cingular. I used to have the direct number to their credit department, if you call there and ask for a supervisor you can get a BAN # (billing account number) to start setting up your account and then you just fax them your photo ID and they’ll process the credit report, then you just need to go back to the store with the BAN # which will already show you’ve been approved.

      • Antediluvian says:

        @Lucky225: Good to know. I assumed it was work-around-able, but again, in person or on the phone, not via a web / iTunes form that has field-level validation requiring SSN’s.

  34. Antediluvian says:

    And the other concern is the web chat server itself. The SSN is not merely “stored” in the single server that Comcast “owns” (as if that somehow makes it secure).

    It’s also going to be in the chat server, in the cache of the database client that the CSR uses to examine or create your account, and in any number of other places, all of which have questionable security.

    That is, if I didn’t install it and secure it myself, I question it.

  35. MSUHitman says:

    When I used to work at Charter in St. Louis, SSN was necessary to open a new account as a credit check was required to see if you “qualified” for the promotional rates (ie you could pay your bill.) Charter had a lot of problems with people getting free/discounted service, letting the bill go unpaid, then Charter having to disconnect them.

  36. cyberdog says:

    As a former Comcast Tech Support person. When we would set up new service, we would be required per company policy to ask for a Social Security Number of Driver’s License. If a person refused to provide a SS# we would just require a DL#.

    We could not refuse to connect up a customer EVEN if they didn’t provide either of these. However if you wanted our DVR service we would have to do a credit check by using your SS# or DL#. If you wouldn’t provide either one of them, then you would have to pay a $75 deposit to get one.

    We have never been required to have a SS# to interact with a customer, although if we did have the SS# we would only have the last four on file. All other numbers were *** out. So nobody could get your SS#.

    When a customer would call in we would ask for the last four of the SS# so we could verify the account. Some would not have an SS# on file, but would have a DL# or some other verification via pin or other password the customer would choose.

  37. wcnghj says:

    The State of Maine accepts driver license applications with 999-99-9999 as a SSN.

  38. Scazza says:

    No idea if its the same in the US, but in Canada, the SSN, or a Credit Card number is required to open up any major account that will provide a bill to you. All the major telecoms require one of the two, as they then do a general look up of your creditscore in order to see if you are actually going to be able to pay your bill.

    How it actually works is that the SSN is passed to a credit company (Equifax here) and equifax returns with one of 3 possible: Yes, No or Maybe. Maybe usually requires a deposit. Most young people with no credit will be required to make a deposit. Without an SSN or Creditcard number they would be unable to look up your credit. Nothing to do with any law.

  39. chartrule says:

    thank gawd Canadian companies don’t have to comply with the patriot act

  40. xVAGUE says:

    The Patriot Act defers the method of identification to the institution.

    Merchant’s ask for your social so they can run a credit check. They do have to notify you, but not necessarily in chat if its on the website….in some obscure area.

  41. papahoth says:

    Its clear isn’t people? With the FCC after Comcast they are making a few extra bucks by selling SSNs to Russian identity thieves. Also, I had no problem using the one I purchased after I snuck into the country gringos.

  42. TechnoDestructo says:

    South Korea has a law like that. You can’t do…just about anything…on the South Korean internet without giving the Korean equivalent of an SSN. Want a Korean Yahoo email account? Give ‘em the number. Want to buy movie tickets online? Gotta have a number.

    It was kind of a pain in the ass being there as a military member, and therefore not eligible for any sort of internet-compatible registration number.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @TechnoDestructo: For Yahoo, at least, can’t you just register your account in the US and import it to Korea? I did that from Yahoo China to Yahoo US once (just logged in with my Chinese Yahoo login info and it gave me the option to move everything to the US site).

  43. dj_skilz says:

    Refuse, but offer an alternate;

    457-55-5462

    ;-)

  44. aikoto says:

    They want your SSN so they can run a credit check on you or do who knows what else. The best way to handle it is to use the “0″ trick by zeroing out the two middle numbers of your SSN thereby making it an invalid number or have a credit freeze on your reports like I do. Then, even if they have your SSN, they won’t be able to run a credit check even if they wanted to.

    • D14BL0 says:

      @aikoto: Do you realize that without running credit checks, you’re illegible for phone service with 99% of providers out there? Legal requirement for phone establishment. They won’t tell you it’s a credit check (they usually don’t get your actual credit score, but just a “grade”, so they know where you fall).

      I’ve had to run Equifax on customers before, and trust me. You don’t get to see anything worth stealing. You get a letter grade and give them service based on that.

  45. frodo_35 says:

    I know i’m very late on this thread But has anyone considered what country the online rep is in. With all the outsourcing it could be anywhere. Now that is the scariest part giving your ssn to a person in pakistan that quotes the pat act to get your info.

  46. Sasquatch says:

    I have cable and internet through RCN, and never had to provide my SSN.

  47. dlab says:

    likely reasons for this are:

    - make sure you don’t owe them money from before.
    - check that you have good credit (not likely IMHO).
    - they need this information as a last-ditch resort to protect your account should someone try to gain access to it through the “forgot my password” type of means.
    - since this is telecom, could be for something as crazy as ensuring that you are a legal resident of the United States.

  48. knownhuman says:

    I spoke with Frank (Twitter @comcastcares ) about this and this is the response he gave me:

    “Inaccurate info from rep. My guess is they came from the financial services world, where that is used to ‘know your Customer’ [twitter.com]

    I came from financial services, so I knew it sounded very familiar but way out of place [twitter.com]

  49. Nerys says:

    I refuse to give my SSN to anyone except gov and bank and I do not even like giving it to banks.

    I would never give my SSN to someone like comcast and I would be sure to explicit tell them they are NOT permitted to run a credit check.

    Internet service is a month to month account with no contract. They do not need and will not have my SSN or my “credit history”

    Checking credit history has absolutely NOTHING to do with securing services. It has to be with coming up with a hogwash “excuse” to charge you more money if your credit is “not” good.

    Odd catch 22 there. The higher risk people are charged more DIRECTLY INCREASING the risk of a default. Cute.

  50. digitalklepto says:

    Not to get all biblical, but you could have played the religion card. Revelations says that all men will be numbered, and that number is the mark of the beast. You’ve decided that you will not be numbered (have a SSN) and that requiring you to have a SSN, or show proof of a SSN is against your religion, and they are discriminating against you based on your religious beliefs. I’ve seen in the past where this works with banks, surely it could work with a Cable Company.

  51. humbop says:

    Another reason why I feel good about cancelling my cable. I’m going to miss sports, but there’s nothing much else on worth $50 a month. TV news is just recycled internet information, two days late! Or manufactured conflict ignorant of the facts. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!

    Get off the grid folks and hit these f*ckers where it hurts. The only reason they can demand SSNs and give lousy, overpriced service is because they know people can’t say no because they NEED television. We’ve become a distopia that sci-fi writers envisioned forty years ago: mindless, ignorant, spoon-fed false information, sitting hypnotized in front of the unblinking, dispassionate “eye” of Big Brother.

    Btw, how come WE THE PEOPLE can’t take back some of the airwaves we own?

  52. I work for a finacial institute and we require your SSN to set up an account. I’m sure that isn’t news to you, but let me just say that since the Patriot Act came out we need to verify almost everything. This includes things that a bank shouldn’t really care about. Like where you live. We don’t care about where you recieve your mail, like a PO.BOX or your parents house. You need to proove you actually reside where you say you do. This creates a lot of customer service issues since a lot of people have alternate mailing address or poboxes. We aren’t going to drive to your house and ask for you. Makes my job a lot more difficult and drives away tons of customers. Also the Patriot Act is actually taking away our freedoms and bears the name Patriot. Comcast may or may not be lying, either way…..

    SCREW YOU PATRIOT ACT!

  53. captainproton says:

    They can do the same thing they need to do with a SSN by asking for a birthdate, and that goes for credit checks too. This is most likely to put you on the hook when they try to collect a bill they think you owe them.

  54. BrandonAbell says:

    You don’t have to provide SSN to open an account. You have to do it to open it ONLINE. They just need some sort of positive verifiable identification. The Patriot Act (yes, I think it’s BS too — that’s another debate) requires communications companies to provide customer information to law enforcement agencies through a formal request process. You can’t do that unless you do some due diligence to determine exactly who that customer is in the first place (and that they’re not using a stolen identity, etc. They’re asking for the SSN as a convenience for YOU, so you don’t have to physically go down to the office to provide ID.

    The people to chastise over this is the people you elected, not Comcast.

  55. Rhuobhe says:

    I work for a small telecommunications company in the Great Lakes area.

    New FTC regulations (also FCC) are going into effect starting 11/1/08 that require telecommunications companies to verify the identity of the customer, we will require a photo ID and one other form of ID. All is in the name of Identity theft protection. We have to have a written policy that addresses a number of specif areas and revise the policy periodically. It will cost us a few hundred thousand dollars to comply and we are very small, it will be millions for a company like Comcast or Charter to do this.

    This isn’t something our company wants to do, we have been a home-town company that knows our customers on sight rather than a big monolith like Comcast, but we have to abide by the rules just like they do. Most large carriers have started to implement the policy earlier to prevent lapses and get all agents up to speed.

    I would love to say that they guys are jerks and scoundrels for doing this, but the truth is that they are following the laws of the land. Certainly not the Patriot Act but still FTC/FCC regs. none the less.

  56. ZomgWtfBBQ says:

    Hey there Ryan,

    Unlike some of the other folks posting on here, I’m not disagreeing or agreeing with you on this matter, I’ll go with both =).

    I agree, if you are not comfortable giving out your social security number, then absolutely don’t. If you ever have any question of legitimacy no matter how you are communicating with someone then yes always second guess the company.

    In aspect to the Patriot Act, even if there is no actual citation stating that communication company’s are “required” to obtain a social security number, a rule in comcast could have arose from the Patriot Act’s approval, I don’t know this for a FACT, but it is possible. If you go in detail to what CSR Carol had stated, if you set up an order ON LINE, a SSN number is required, or you can show a photo ID at the local office. If you were to call 1-800-266-2278 (1-800-COMCAST) to set up the order, it would be a different story. You would still be required to show a photo ID, just not at the local office. When the technician came for the install he would still require to see some identification.

    Granted it may seem like it is a hassle, but a few other things come into play as well, where they would NEED your SSN, or you would need to pay quite abit more. Obviously not pertaining to your scenario, but still. If getting their CDV (Digital Voice) Service they would require a SSN to run a credit check, if the credit check is failed, then a 50$ deposit must be placed on the account. For DVR it is the same scenario, but with a 100$ deposit. This can be bypassed (on the phone) by not applying your SSN and agreeing to pay the deposits at that time.

    200$ EMTA= 50$ deposit
    500$ DVR= 100$ deposit

    More along the lines of what your asking, back in the day we would not have been required to provide this information, but how badly has our economy changed? Lets say your name was Ryan Smith. If I were to call comcast, I could tell them my name was Ryan Smith, they would open me service in your name, and without a SSN or photo ID there would be no way to verify who I really was! So yes it may seem difficult, and we may not have needed to do these things before, but they are precautions to help both us, their consumers, as well as themselves so they dont get screwed out of hundreds maybe thousands of dollars.

    My suggestion, call them instead if you aren’t comfortable giving out your SSN, but if your trying to get a DVR with your cable then be prepared to pay a little more for not supplying the information. And don’t be shocked and awed when the technician asks you for an ID, it’s for your own protection.

    PS: (Got this one from Comcast.net)
    How to contact the Comcast Legal Response Center:

    The Comcast Legal Response Center is the company’s point of contact for assisting Law Enforcement Agencies and parties to civil litigation with legal requests and emergency release of subscriber information for Comcast High Speed Internet, Comcast Digital Voice, Comcast Digital Phone, and Comcast Cable television. Comcast processes all requests in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and terms of service.

    Comcast High Speed Internet
    650 Centerton Road
    Moorestown, NJ 08057

    Normal business hours (M-F, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm EST)
    856-317-7272 Option 1

    Law Enforcement Fax (24 hour operation)
    856-317-7319

    Comcast Digital Voice, Comcast Digital Phone, and Comcast Cable Television
    5800 S Quebec Street
    Greenwood Village, CO 80111

    Normal business hours (M-F, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm MST)
    800-871-6298

    Law Enforcement Fax (24 hour operation)
    720-267-2794

  57. You_Call_This_Service says:

    I always ask them to prove to me that they have a written policy in place to protect me in case I’m a victim of Identity Theft due to their negligence.

    This is one of my Top 3 Peeves. I hate it when some dumb ass tries to give me some canned response why they have to have my SSN.

    I also always object to giving it over the phone because anyone could be sitting on a phone pole with a butt set or be intercepting IP packets and be listening to calls. I know it’s low probability, but it’s still not a reason to risk it.

    I’ve been objecting to this practice for over 10 years and let me tell you 10 years ago people looked at you like you had 2 heads when you launched into an ID Theft diatribe. Even with all the press the issue gets now, people still seem clueless when you object and mention ID Theft as the reason.

  58. D14BL0 says:

    Your SSN is going to be the most accurate way of identifying you when establishing new service. While it’s not mandated by the Patriot Act (this particular chat rep is just an idiot), it is required by every single service provider in the US for anything BUT cable TV service. Because you can’t use your TV to commit fraud. Internet and phone services, however, always require a SSN, that way if the provider is subpoenaed, they can route it back to the person using the service to commit the illegal acts.

    It’s standard practice in tech support and customer service for all providers. Ryan is just a jackass and acts like he knows the company policy or something. He’s also full of it if he never showed his ID when establishing internet service. He probably showed a state ID or driver’s license or something. Either that, or he established service many many years ago when the internet was still brand spanking new, and this wasn’t a requirement.

  59. Jordan Lund says:

    Has nothing to do with the Patriot Act, it has to do with consumer credit.

    Phone companies and cable companies are essentially extending you credit with the service. You’re agreeing to pay for any extraneous costs (i.e. Pay Per View, text messaging overages, etc.) that you may incur in addition to the regular monthly service fee.

    This is why they ask for your SSN. The Comcast rep was just being a douchebag.

  60. bobafett573 says:

    I am highly inclined to believe this is a fake transcript. While Comcast actually does own the comcastsupport.com domain name, it actually forwards to help.comcast.net. There is no way a chat window could possibly have been launched from that url. Also, notice the “agent” has very poor spelling. While most tech support is based overseas, much of their responses are copy-paste type ones that have perfect spelling and grammar. It was a nice try but I want the past 5 minutes back of the wasted time I spent looking at this article.

  61. LibertyReign says:

    What’s the big deal? Just give out your prison I.D. number and stfu! Do you have something to hide? It’s not like the coroporations and the government have become the same entity and you are being tracked and traced in every purchase and business venture you make anywhere in the world. It’s really weird to refuse to give out personally identifiable information linked to your credit, income, and personal background. Only some kind of crazy right-wing paranoid nutcase or someone who gets off on being difficult would refuse to provide their social to ANYONE who asks.. Grow up..

    /sarcasm