According to McAfee, the antivirus software company, universities and colleges are at the top of the list of the most dangerous places to give your Social Security number (SSN).
The ranking is based on the number of data breaches involving SSNs from January 2009 to October 2010. Until recently SSNs were used at universities to provide many of their services to students and staff. More awareness around the proper use of a SSN has helped to minimize the collection of these numbers by universities, however there are still many of these records retained in electronic and paper files.
If you are requesting a service, be hesitant about giving your number out so quickly. Ask the requestor what it will be used for and whether it is absolutely necessary. You may be able to just give the last four digits rather than the full number, or an alternative number, such as your school ID number.
If you are offering a service, and collecting a SSN is required, make sure that it is handled appropriately — meaning that access to these records is restricted and the security protecting them is strong enough to minimize the risk of exposure and identity theft.
Learn about information protection at MIT.