Here's the skinny on Social Security numbers from

The *only* reason cited for not giving out your
Social Security number is identity theft.  It also
enumerates the many types of institutions that still
use SS#s for identification purposes and explains 
why the number is so useful.

A quote from the introduction:

Because both government agencies and private businesses use SSNs for 
a wide range of non-Social Security purposes, the SSN has become a de 
facto national identifier.2 For this reason, SSNs are much sought 
after by identity thieves, who use these numbers to assume the 
identity of another individual and commit fraud. With an estimated 10 
million individuals being victimized by identity theft each year, 
preventing identity thieves from obtaining SSNs is increasingly 
essential to helping protect individuals from fraud.3

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining how 
SSNs are used in the public sector found that federal, state, and 
local government agencies use them for a variety of non-Social 
Security purposes, including identity verification, data sharing, 
research, and the administration of programs that deliver services 
and benefits to the public.4 This creates numerous documents and 
records that contain SSNs, many of which are available to the public 
for inspection.5 In addition, some government agencies print SSNs on 
individual eligibility and identification cards, making it easier for 
identity thieves to gain access to this key number.

The private sector also uses SSNs extensively as a means to identify 
an individual's records in a database and as an authenticator to 
confirm the identity of an individual.6 SSNs are often used by 
financial service companies to link individuals to their accounts 
and, as a result, they are highly valuable to would-be identity 

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