By Mary Hunt
Dear Mary: I recently refused to give my Social Security number to a cable company when I simply was inquiring about the cost of services. The clerk stated that without the number, she would be unable to give me a quote. Some companies ask for it as a second form of identification. When is it appropriate to give your Social Security number, and when is it inappropriate and risky to give this information? — Thomas W., Illinois
Dear Thomas: Anybody can ask for your Social Security number, but that doesn’t mean you have to give it out. When a company asks for your number even though it is not authorized by law to have it, you should ask these questions: Why do you need my Social Security number? How is my number going to be used? What laws require me to give you my SSN? What are the consequences if I refuse to provide you with my SSN? Are there any alternative numbers I can use to obtain this service? You should be able to give an alternative source to identify yourself, such as the last four digits of your SSN or your driver’s license number.
According to the Social Security Administration, there are specific laws that require a person to provide his or her SSN for certain purposes. In general, an SSN is required by the Internal Revenue Service for tax returns; the Department of the Treasury for U.S. savings bonds; employers for wage- and tax-reporting purposes; banks for monetary transactions; the Department of Labor for workers’ compensation; the Department of Education for student loans; states to administer taxes; general public assistance; and states for child support enforcement and for services such as commercial driver’s licenses, food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment compensation and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Dear Mary: I’ve come to trust the great advice you give us day to day. So before going out to buy cleaners for my travertine floor and granite counters, I wanted to hear your suggestions. I’ve searched, and of course, I get the advertisers claiming their products are best. I prefer products that are as “natural” as possible. Any advice? — Araceli M., California
Dear Araceli: Both marble and travertine, as beautiful as they are, can be tricky to maintain. Any kind of product that is acidic will dull the shine, and some things can cause the colors to darken over time. That being said, do not use Windex, vinegar, bleach, Lime-A-Way, ammonia or lemon juice to clean those surfaces. All will dull the shine over time. For general cleaning, use non-citrus liquid dishwashing soap and water. Original blue Dawn is ideal. To remove a stain, make a paste of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Cover the stain, and allow the paste to sit until it’s dry, or about an hour. Then remove the dried paste, and rinse with clear water. Buff it dry. To make the marble and travertine shine, buff with dry cornstarch and a soft clean cloth.
Do you have a question for Mary? E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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