Comcast Admits Error In Requiring SSN Under "Patriot Act"

Comcast’s customer service czar Frank responded to our post “Comcast: “The Patriot Act” Mandates We Need Your SSN” by saying it was an error on part of the agent. Via Twitter he said:

Our policy is SSN not required. I believe the agent came from financial services where that is the policy. We have coached them

It indeed seems the rep was under the misimpression that Comcast fell under the Know Your Customer clause of the Patriot Act. Props to Frank and Comcast for swiftly responding to and resolving the issue. On a related note, here’s how one Consumerist reader signs up for utility services without giving them his social security number.

PREVIOUSLY: Comcast: “The Patriot Act” Mandates We Need Your SSN

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  1. SuperiorInky says:

    Well, that’s one issue resolved (hopefuly), just (insert large number here) issues that still need to be resolved.

    Thanks Comcast! :)

  2. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    thanks for the update!
    reminds me of the car dealer telling me that the patriot act required them to run a credit check when i showed up with preapproved financing. i’m pretty sure he wouldn’t get coached on that from his superiors though – it’s probably a policy to do whatever you can to get a credit report run and his boss might try to spread that particular tactic around

    • magic8ball says:

      @catastrophegirl: I had a car dealer tell me he needed my SSN before he could sell me a car, because of the Patriot Act, but he also said he would not be running a credit check since I had a sight draft. Obviously he could have been lying on both counts, but does anybody know what the actual deal is on that? Also, why are car dealers so excited about running credit checks if the customer isn’t getting financed through the dealership?

      • mac-phisto says:

        @magic8ball: complete b.s. the only circumstance i could think of where a dealership would require your ssn is if you paid >$10,000 cash for a car – they are required to file an 8300 w/ the irs –> [www.irs.gov]

        why do dealers want to pull your credit? well, first off, they can use it to get an idea of what you can afford – a sort of “pre-qualification” to know how to upsell you. second, even if you are pre-approved, they hope to change that (presuming you’re creditworthy). dealers make A LOT of money off their financing agreements – in addition to a lump sum bonus, they also receive residual payments over the course of the loan.

        & don’t just guard your ssn at a dealership – don’t EVER let them take your DL out of your sight (classic line – “we need to take a copy of your DL before the test drive”). a credit report can be run just as easily (& usually is) with the info on that card.

        you can also state explicitly I DO NOT AUTHORIZE YOU TO PULL MY CREDIT! but don’t expect that to stop them.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          @mac-phisto: they asked me to sign a thing to let them pull my credit [which might be a law in NC because i had a furniture store pull out the same piece of paper once] and i refused so the dealer turned me over to the finance guy who didn’t even bring it up in conversation

  3. Antediluvian says:

    “We have coached them” ?
    I assume he means “we have coached them to ask for it.”
    Probably “we have coached them, and we got caught.”

    • Erwos says:

      @Antediluvian: No need to be a jerk about this. In call center land, training is often called coaching. It’s clear from the context that they’ve issued some new training and documentation to correct this problem.

      His explanation also makes plenty of sense. It’s not unusual at all for a single call center employee to handle many different types of issues. Whomever wrote the training docs and scripts for the financial questions probably just forgot to be specific about the limited necessity of the SSN stuff.

      IMHO, Comcast guy definitely got the response right. I still think it’s lame that they require the SSN for non-financial stuff, though.

      • Antediluvian says:

        @Erwos: Well, I don’t think stating my personal sustained opinion that Comcast got caught doing something makes me a “jerk,” but if you do, I can live with that.

        Yeah, I know what “coaching” is. And I DO think they coach / train CSR’s to ask for SSN’s because it’s easier for the company AND the CSR, just not beneficial to the customer.

        I doubt that they use the word “required” in their training or their scripts, but instead likely say something like, “all the information on this form is needed to open an account” (form includes spot for SSN). More than likely no trainer has ever said “SSN’s not required” until now, and I still doubt that Comcast will revise their training to make it clear that it’s optional.

        I am willing to believe that this particular CSR, being overeager, invoked the PATRIOT Act improperly. And I am willing to believe that Comcast “coached” CSR’s not to use that excuse again when asking for an SSN.

        If Comcast really cares, they will drop the SSN request completely.

        I stand by my opinion of Comcast, and after ALL the BAD experiences we have had with them, it will take a hell of a lot more than some mis-named twitterer chiming in now and then with up to 140 characters to make up for it.

      • Erwos says:

        @Antediluvian: When you purposely assume the worst of someone, that’s being a jerk. This is an individual from Comcast, and you basically called him a liar without any cause whatsoever.

        • Antediluvian says:

          @Erwos: Not at all without cause: Comcast has ZERO credibility. Consider me a jerk all you want, I (still) stand by my statements. But you’re welcome to continue calling me names if you’d like.

  4. marsneedsrabbits says:

    So, if Comcast is telling the truth, and it isn’t required, what do they do with it?

    The forms on the screen or on paper shouldn’t have an input field if they don’t need the information. In fact, having the field would imply that they do think they need it, just like the CSR said.

    So, was the CSR trolling for SSNs, or is Comcast lying, or what?

    • mac-phisto says:

      @marsneedsrabbits: they use it to run a credit check. it’s not mandatory, but it’s their preferred method for confirming your identity. they could just as easily ask for your DL# or passport # or other unique identifiers. we’re just trained to memorize & spout off that 9-digit number, so it’s much easier to just use that.

  5. the-perfect-face-for-radio says:

    it isn’t just comcast that does this. here’s a shoutout to the greaseball at clint newell toyota in roseburg, oregon, who just barely sold me a truck in march. on an all cash deal, he wanted me to fill in the first two lines of a credit app, including the ssn. i said no. he said it was required by the patriot act. i said that’s a goddamn lie, and a dealkiller, and i hoisted my bulk off the seat. he said waitasecond, went in and talked to “the desk”, came back and told me they would dispense with this requirement in my case. good thing for you and your commission, i told him. i love my new truck, but would never spend another nickel at that lying dealership. i’m not sure that burning the aftermarket/servicing business like that is the best bizmodel from their perspective.

  6. JN2 says:

    I think the trick is to wave your hand in front of their face Jedi style when saying “You do not need my SSN”.

    I guess this wouldn’t work over the phone, hence the trouble with CSR’s

  7. APFPilot says:

    I was reading his twitter page the other day and it looked like he was hooking up with a girl in vegas.

  8. nerevar says:

    about a year ago i signed up for comcast triple play and the rep over the phone asked for my ss#. I asked why, the person said it was used for identification purposes or something along those lines. I said i didn’t want to give it out and wasn’t there a way to give me a different identification number? the rep said he could do that but it would cost me $30 to do it. I laughed and said are you serious? He was. I ended up just giving him my ss# because i didn’t want to deal with the hassle of calling them up a million times to fight this.

  9. moneyries says:

    Go get ‘em, Coach!

  10. newfenoix says:

    I believe that this CSR was actually trolling for SSN’s to scam.

  11. FLConsumer says:

    Comcast: How about trying to get things right the first time instead of it taking an angry customer going public? I know and appreciate how difficult it can be when a company gets large and more employees are brought in, with more field offices and more supervisors, however it can be done.

    Yes, it costs money to do things right the first time. BUT it costs far less in the long-run to get it right the first time.

  12. SugouriDadillac says:

    So why did I also have to give my SSN to Time Warner Cable just a few weeks ago to get services in my new apartment? If it was a select case, I’d assume that it wouldn’t have also been policy with their other company as well. But that obviously isn’t the case.

    Further, they have used my SSN as a means of identifying me each and every time I call in to their customer service number by asking me to give them the last 4 digits of it.

  13. coyo7e says:

    As someone who’s previously made a living pushing phones, I would suspect it more likely that the CSR who tried to use the Patriot Act as an excuse, was simply pulling it out of his ass to avoid either having to do more paperwork to deal with a lack of SSN, or he’s used it before successfully, to cow stupid customers.

  14. mammenvt says:

    My daughter just had to give her SSN to get Comcast cable in Cambridge, MA, on August 21, 2009. There was no alternative to giving the SSN, other than not having Comcast service. She inquired via the live chat, the phone, and called a store to see if she came in person what ID they would require — one piece of ID had to be the social security card. She was willing to provide a deposit instead, but was told the account still needed a valid SSN. She referred the chat person to this website, where Comcast says their policy is that SSN is not required, but ultimately she gave up and provided her SSN, so she could move forward. This issue is not resolved.

  15. Paqi says:

    I just tried upgrading my family’s Comcast internet service, and the customer service rep just demanded my father’s social security number. I took screenshots, saved the webpage of the transcript, and have the transcript in a text file. Is there anywhere that this stuff is being posted?