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SSN Required To Buy Palm Pre 543

Posted by kdawson
from the credit-you-said-it dept.
UltraOne writes "Sprint requires your Social Security number in order to run a credit check before they will allow you to open an account, according to a store manager in Silver Spring, MD. Since Sprint is the exclusive carrier for the Palm Pre, if you are not willing to provide an SSN, you can't buy this product. I believe a full credit check for this level of consumer purchase is a clear example of overkill. I have supplied an SSN when buying a house and renting an apartment, but never for any other consumer purchase. I have purchased my cars with cash so far, so I don't have first-hand experience, but a car loan also seems to be an appropriate place to require an SSN for a credit check. At the very least, Sprint should have an alternative for people who don't want to give out their SSN. I also found the entire experience a powerful argument against exclusive license agreements." Read below for details of this reader's experience.

I was eager to purchase the Palm Pre to replace my aging Zire 72s, and also consolidate my PDA and mobile phone into a single device. Since reviews have generally been positive, I headed to my local Sprint store (8501 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, MD). My current mobile carrier is Verizon, so I also needed to set up service with Sprint.

The store had the Pre in stock, and the sale proceeded smoothly until the sales associate asked me for my Social Security number. He had already verified my identity with a driver's license. When I asked why the SSN was needed, he said it was to run a credit check. I offered a credit card instead, but he said that the SSN was required.

I asked to speak to the manager, who was a pleasant young woman, but not able to resolve the problem. She confirmed that Sprint required the SSN to run a credit check (through a credit bureau) before opening an account. I told her that I understood Sprint had an interest in making sure that I could pay for the service (I was planning to get the $70/month Everything Data 450 plan), but that I was concerned about identity theft and privacy. I offered several other options, including a check on my credit card limit, which is an order of magnitude greater than the combined price of the phone and two-year contract; placing the maximum deposit that Sprint requires from people with poor credit ($500); or pre-paying the entire two-year plan on the spot. None of these was acceptable options, so Sprint lost the sale.
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SSN Required To Buy Palm Pre

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  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:08AM (#28418601)

    Is there a cellphone provider that doesn't require you to provide your SSN before signing up for a contract?

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shag (3737) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:10AM (#28418623) Homepage

      Contract, probably not. But in a few months the original poster will probably be able to buy that Pre unlocked, with a prepaid (Pre-paid?) plan from someone, without going through the credit check. Money up front talks. :)

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:07AM (#28419007)

        I sometimes wish it talked louder. My experience with O2 in the uk.

        I wanted three iPhones for the business, however the credit agencies didn't have enough history on me and so I got a rating of 'technically insolvent'.

        I offered to pay for all three handsets and *all* the contracts up front. They still wouldn't have it!

        I went back to the office pulled files showing signed contracts showing over £100k of guranteed income. Paperwork detailing business insurance to cover loss of earnings, professional indemnifcation etc bank statements that showed £10k month credits for the last several months, I even did my own credit search on me to show them why they were getting that result and that it was just a technicality.

        I still got the standard 'Computer says no' response.

        Eventually after about 2 hours of kicking up a stink in the shop I finally embarrassed them into ring head office (pointing out very loudly that they didnt want to take thousands of pounds from me today did the trick - though I was assured there was nothing head office could do either)

        Lo and behold someone with an ounce of sense decided it was a bit silly saying no to someone who was throwing money at you.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by phoenix321 (734987) * on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:49AM (#28419333)

          These days, any phone or cell phone technically is a credit account with absolutely no limits due to being able to rack up hours and hours calling "premium" numbers.

          And unlike a credit card, your kid and any of his friends visiting your house can use that phone to call whatever expensive number they like, with no limits, no checks or any verification whatsoever. They can just start billing ridiculous amounts of money.

          That's the background of this credit check:
          Even your ultra-flatrate-everything plan will not cover premium numbers or roaming charges.
          Individually disabling premium numbers, disabling roaming or disbanding this crooked concept of thievery altogether means the providers losing their huge margins on that.

          Every ordinary phone plan can rack up the monetary equivalent of several expensive sports cars within one month, that's why we get credit checks equivalent to buying a house and a mortgage for that phone plan.

          • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Clovis42 (1229086) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:38AM (#28419681)
            I'm under the impression that most of this stuff is a complete racket though. Sure, Sprint can put several thousand dollars on your bill in one month because you used your data plan in Canada or something. But did that actually cost Sprint very much? If not, who cares if you cannot pay the bill? As long as you can at least pay enough to cover Sprint's costs, it shouldn't be a big deal for them if you simply owe them a lot of money.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by 5KVGhost (208137)

              But did that actually cost Sprint very much? If not, who cares if you cannot pay the bill? As long as you can at least pay enough to cover Sprint's costs, it shouldn't be a big deal for them if you simply owe them a lot of money.

              If you're not happy with the terms, then don't sign the contract. Presumably you're an adult, spending your own money and legally competent to handle your own affairs. Clearly you understand the service agreement, so you can't say you've been tricked. Sprint has no hold over you exc

          • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @08:33AM (#28420129)

            Search "Spending Limit Program" on the Sprint web site. They don't go out of their way to tell you they have a spending limit program, but it is available for those who lack credit or for those who don't want a $100/month bill to turn into $1000/month.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ckaminski (82854)
              When I got my Pre, I had to initial that I understood there was a $700 charge limit on my account, after which service would be discontinued. It was a first for me. I've only had about $120 in unplanned access charges over my 12 years of Verizon membership, but my roommate had a bit of a heart attack when his daughter run up an $800 text messaging bill.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by FatAlb3rt (533682)

            ...with absolutely no limits due to being able to rack up hours and hours calling "premium" numbers...

            That sounds like a technical problem that can be easily solved by the cell provider. I can find out how many minutes I've used as of right now, why would it be so difficult to restrict access to premium numbers based on the account type?

            • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by HisMother (413313) on Monday June 22, 2009 @09:34AM (#28420895)
              They don't want to restrict access, because calling those premium numbers doesn't actually cost them anything extra. They just want to make sure that whatever ridiculous amount they bill you, you're going to be able to pay. They're saving on legal/collection fees, not trying to make sure that their nonexistent "expenses" are covered.
          • Re:And? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Mad Merlin (837387) on Monday June 22, 2009 @10:51AM (#28422227) Homepage

            Every ordinary phone plan can rack up the monetary equivalent of several expensive sports cars within one month, that's why we get credit checks equivalent to buying a house and a mortgage for that phone plan.

            I understand you Americans are pretty fast and loose with your SSNs, but up here in Canada, I've got both a mortgage and car lease, neither of which required me handing over my SIN (our analogue to your SSN). The only time you're required to give out your SIN is for tax purposes (ie, to employers).

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cgenman (325138) on Monday June 22, 2009 @09:49AM (#28421115) Homepage

          Not to sound too brusque, but you do realize that was a complete d1ck move to do to the people working in the store, right? To prevent fraud and abuse, they're not allowd to make exceptions. They clearly could have been fired for violating company security and financial policy in approving someone with insolvent credit. And getting fired happens all the time: having worked retail before, you become expendable hours that gets thrown out at the drop of a hat.

          As the poor low-level suckers who got stuck working in the retail arm of the company, even if they could authorize a transaction like that (hint: they can't) they probably didn't even have a way in their system to accept all of the money up front. So kicking up a stink in the store for 2 hours is mostly just making their (and your) life miserable for something they probably can't do, and if they could they'd probably get fired for doing it.

          When you encounter situations like that, please quickly escalate to their customer service lines or head office. Directly interact with people who *can* actually do something about it. But railing on the poor floor people is just unnecessarily causing discomfort in an already crappy job, without any chance of success, due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how retail works.

          • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday June 22, 2009 @10:25AM (#28421775) Journal

            Not to sound too brusque, but you do realize that was a complete d1ck move to do to the people working in the store, right? To prevent fraud and abuse, they're not allowd to make exceptions. They clearly could have been fired for violating company security and financial policy in approving someone with insolvent credit. And getting fired happens all the time: having worked retail before, you become expendable hours that gets thrown out at the drop of a hat.

            Do you hear this? This is the world’s smallest violin playing.

            Customers don’t walk into retail stores to please the staff and give them a job; no, they walk in to be pleased BY THE STAFF by plunking down good money and — GASP! — BUYING STUFF FROM THE STORE!!!!

            • Re:And? (Score:4, Informative)

              by Score Whore (32328) on Monday June 22, 2009 @01:32PM (#28425089)

              Customers donâ(TM)t walk into retail stores to please the staff and give them a job; no, they walk in to be pleased BY THE STAFF by plunking down good money and â" GASP! â" BUYING STUFF FROM THE STORE!!!!

              You do realize that no one is required to provide you service in the manner you desire? Sure, they can't refuse to sell you a cell phone because you are a "slanty-eyed gook", but they don't have to put on a French maid outfit and kiss your ass either.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Zorque (894011)

              Just because the employees are there to serve you doesn't mean you should bitch at them to do something beyond their power. Nobody is going to put their job on the line for your insane privacy needs.

          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            So kicking up a stink in the store for 2 hours is mostly just making their (and your) life miserable for something they probably can't do, and if they could they'd probably get fired for doing it.

            Well then, maybe they'll quit and go to work somewhere else if enough people make it too painful & annoying for them to continue working at a place of business that requires them to enforce a corporate policy that stinks. Then maybe if the stores can't keep enough employees on staff and they lose enough sales,

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:20AM (#28418695)

      The point is that he made a more than reasonable effort to purchase their product without releasing personal details. They chose not to make the sale of a new phone; and the chose not to receive full, on the spot payment of a two year contract for want of his SSN. They didn't need it at that point, and lost a pretty good chunk of change.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        I've only been with sprint since I got my first cell phone in the last 90's. I've never given a SSN to a phone company.

        However, I've been concerned that I will run into the same thing with switching and getting an iPhone....but, to get around that...gonna do it through my company I formed to do contracting through. I'd be ok giving my EIN, rather than my SSN.

        I just do not give SSN out, I'll pay deposits no problem, but, I don't give out SSN. Sure it is a bit of a hassle with utilities, but, it can be don

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rockoon (1252108)
          ..or you can even create a new EIN (aka Tax I.D. Number) for purposes such as this. Sprint, and any other business, is legally required to accept tax I.D. numbers anywhere they would normally accept a social security number.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851)
          I haven't gotten a new phone in years, but I don't recall Sprint demanding a SSN from me, admittedly that was a few years ago, but at that time a phone was basically a guaranteed way of getting a bit of credit history. Rarely if ever did a phone company say no and even when they did that just meant you paid a deposit.

          Which leads me to wonder, why in the hell the cellphone companies feel entitled to that kind of invasive questioning now, when it costs them so little to provide many of the most egregiously
    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:32AM (#28418779)

      Is there a cellphone provider that doesn't require you to provide your SSN before signing up for a contract?

      I suppose I can understand the requirement for SSN and/or Drivers License number for a credit check.. barely. Because, after all, you are signing a contract to keep paying for it, like leasing a car.

      But what bothers me is that they KEEP IT ON RECORD. Sprint asks you to confirm the last four digits of your SSN when you call customer service. This allows them to profile you, potentially sell it (legal or not), and more likely have it STOLEN and then sold/used for nefarious purposes.

      Why do they retain this information? Because it is valuable to collect information whether they know what to do with it or not. I think the risks for abuse are scary and NOT worth it. But, they don't care. Not until something bad happens and they get hoards of angry customers.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by noidentity (188756) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:47AM (#28418881)

        But what bothers me is that they KEEP IT ON RECORD. Sprint asks you to confirm the last four digits of your SSN when you call customer service. This allows them to profile you, potentially sell it (legal or not), and more likely have it STOLEN and then sold/used for nefarious purposes.

        And what's infuriating is that the last four digits are the most important [hoboes.com]; the first 5 are determined based on time and place of birth.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

          by apathyruiner (222745) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:46AM (#28419309)

          The first 5 are based on time and place of your application for an SSN. My siblings and I all have the same first 5, despite all being born in different states.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by xouumalperxe (815707) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:47AM (#28419315)

          And what's infuriating is that the last four digits are the most important; the first 5 are determined based on time and place of birth.

          Which is precisely why asking for the first five would be a completely ineffective to ascertain your identity.

          • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rant64 (1148751) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:14AM (#28419491)

            And what's infuriating is that the last four digits are the most important; the first 5 are determined based on time and place of birth.

            Which is precisely why asking for the first five would be a completely ineffective to ascertain your identity.

            SSNs were never intended to provide identification, and with flaws like this it's no wonder they weren't.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dredd13 (14750) <dredd@megacity.org> on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:08AM (#28419023) Homepage

        It's less about "because you are signing a contract" than it is because they are, in point of fact, extending you credit, in the form of allowing you to rack up usage charges that they will bill you for after the fact. They may not disclose what your credit limit is on that front, but believe me, behind the scenes, that number -- how far into usage charges they will let you get without payment -- has been calculated to the penny and stored in your account info.

        Why do they retain this information? Like any other creditor they know that your credit situation changes, and they will periodically 're-check' your credit to see if their internal number for your credit-worthiness needs to be adjusted up or down as time goes on.

        Put the tin-foil hats away, folks. Until you come up with a better system for identifying consumers to credit agencies, there's "nothing to see here."

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by apathyruiner (222745)

          Your spending limit is clearly printed on your contract with Sprint, and you are required to initial that section confirming that you are aware of it.

          • Re:And? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Dredd13 (14750) <dredd@megacity.org> on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:53AM (#28419351) Homepage

            Having signed two Sprint contracts in the last two weeks, and looking at them right in front of me, I would not make it a statement of fact, as you have, that the spending limit is printed on the contract, as it doesn't appear on either mine or my wife's at all.

            At the end of the day, though, even if it were printed on the contract, it's still CREDIT, and they've got every right to demand an SSN to do a credit-check on you if they're extending you credit.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

          by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday June 22, 2009 @08:09AM (#28419919)

          In Canada a lot of places will ask for a SSN but it's not required. It's even technically illegal to ask in many situations, I believe. They still manage to identify you to check your credit just fine.

          You only get my SSN if you intend to pay me money or you're the government. If it's the other way around you can have my name and birth date, plus a credit card number if you really need.

          I just moved to a different province and was rather shocked when I got a letter from the power company asking for my SSN. I ignored it, and they seem perfectly happy with that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by carbona (119666)

        Don't mod this down. The AC hits the nail squarely on the head. I've had to disclose my SSN number anytime I've signed a contract with a mobile carrier (and I've been on contract with most of them at one time or another). The real issue is why they are allowed to keep this information past the time it takes them to run a credit check. Most consumers "consent" to this when they sign that absurd multi-page TOS that not only gives the carrier the right to keep this information indefinitely, but also allows the

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't requiring the SSN illegal? What does social security have to do with a cellphone contract?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, that is correct. Since 2008 in the United States only the IRS, employers, banks, and very few specific institutions are still allowed to require you to submit your SSN. Even a landlord cannot legally ask people for their SSNs anymore and if he turns you down because you refuse to give it to him, you can report him. As an attorney it is a mystery to me that so many people are still not informed about the law and let companies get away with asking for SSNs. They should simply ask people for a reasonable

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

          by hab136 (30884) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:55AM (#28419815) Journal

          Yes, that is correct. Since 2008 in the United States only the IRS, employers, banks, and very few specific institutions are still allowed to require you to submit your SSN. Even a landlord cannot legally ask people for their SSNs anymore and if he turns you down because you refuse to give it to him, you can report him. As an attorney it is a mystery to me that so many people are still not informed about the law and let companies get away with asking for SSNs.

          The SSA contradicts you.

          SSA.gov, questions, "When am I legally required to provide my Social Security number? [ssa.gov]"

          "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. "

          They *can* take a deposit instead; nothing *requires* them to.

          Landlord laws vary wildly by state. AFAIK in NC it's perfectly fine to ask for a SSN and deny if they don't provide.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dimeglio (456244) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:21AM (#28419119)

      In Canada although it is not illegal for merchands to ask for your Social Insurance Number [servicecanada.gc.ca] you are not legally required to give it. If they refuse the sale, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada [privcom.gc.ca].

    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      "Is there a cellphone provider that doesn't require you to provide your SSN before signing up for a contract?"

      I've been with Sprint a LONG time....and they have never had my SSN.

    • Why can't they run the credit check, then discard the SSN? IF they need some number to update the credit history, then let the credit reporting agency give them some auto-generated account number at that time. There's lots of security benefits to doing that anyway.

  • by Atreide (16473) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:11AM (#28418631)

    a stolen valid credit card number and SSN costs pretty nothing.

    if SSN requirement is to protect from stolen identity, it won't simply work.

    • by AngryNick (891056) on Monday June 22, 2009 @08:54AM (#28420339) Homepage Journal
      i can testify to that. Nextel/Sprint/RadioShack will gladly sell you a phone if you give them a SSN that belongs to someone else...you don't even need to know their name. Some dude walked into a store in NJ and picked up two phones using my SSN. I now have to go though life with a super-lock on my credit report which makes it hard for even me to buy anything that requires an SSN.

      I think we can all agree that the SSN is perhaps the only "GUID" available in the US and that we really need such a thing for commerce. The problem is that this GUID we all love has been compromised and is no longer reliable without a private key (i.e. a super-lock on your credit history). The country needs a new GUID that is designed for commerce, privacy, and security from the start.
  • by QuantumG (50515) *

    Eventually, one of these manufacturers (I'm looling at you Nokia) is going to break ranks and stop signing exclusive deals. They'll actually make phones with a price point that is reasonable (ya know, like the god damn iPhone is outright? how the hell has Apple become the low cost option you greedy bastards?) and sell directly to consumers. Retail really isn't that hard these days.. just provide a web only shop.. then cave a few years later and open emporiums.

  • by wild_quinine (998562) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:17AM (#28418677) Homepage
    If the SSN is there to verify credit, and only to do this, then a full up-front payment should utterly negate this need. If there's no provision locally for doing this, perhaps writing a letter to regional management will help out. It's likely the staff of your local are not in a position to make decisions about how to accept payment.

    On the other hand, perhaps mobile contracts require a SSN these days in order that you can more easily be monitored by law enforcement. In which case, you're SOL till they're on sale SIM-free.

    It's pretty likely they'll be unlockable soon enough, and then you'll see them on ebay. You're obviously willing to pay a premium, so keep your eyes open.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:58AM (#28418937) Homepage

      If the SSN is there to verify credit, and only to do this, then a full up-front payment should utterly negate this need

      So how much should that up-front payment be? Let's set it at $25,000 just in case you make $24500-worth of calls before you default on payment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by adolf (21054)

      Disclaimer: I do IT stuff for a regional Verizon dealer. (Please note that this is neither Sprint, nor related to a Palm Pre.)

      AFAICT, in working amongst the sales staff, an SSN is required for any (non-prepaid) phone. Even if you pay for the handset outright. It's even a prerequisite for any account changes (or at least the last four digits are).

      Why? Because they're going to bill you, after the fact, for the services that you've used, and they just want to make sure that you're (likely to be) good for

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Why? Because they're going to bill you, after the fact, for the services that you've used

        Simple solution: once the user has racked up say, $100 in extra costs, block anything that costs extra until they pay.

        I had exactly this situation. I signed up with Vigin Mobile, but I was a student and didn't have much credit history. They gave me the phone without me needing to pay in advance, but I couldn't spend more than £50 extra (i.e. calls once I'd used the included time etc). What if I needed to spend more than £50 in a month? Simple, I could go on to the online bill payment system and

        • by Kazymyr (190114)

          Simple solution: once the user has racked up say, $100 in extra costs, block anything that costs extra until they pay.

          Stands to reason, right? Yes, but you see they don't want to do that. They want to be able to bill you for $500, or $1000, or $17000 if you go on a texting or 1-900 calling rampage for instance.

          • by Shikaku (1129753)

            I use Virgin Mobile Prepaid for that. I can check my dollar balance anytime on my phone, how many minutes I have remaining, how many texts I have remaining, and even change plans!

            When my account hit's $0 the phone instantly stops accepting and handling phone calls if I have no minutes, and stops accepting texts if I have none left.

            I spend about $10 a month on a cell phone.

            Disclaimer: I do not work for them, but I love their cheap service. I refuse to use contracts.

            http://www.virginmobileusa.com/rates/home [virginmobileusa.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by colin_young (902826)
        An SSN is not required to run a credit check. Ask any of the 3 credit reporting agencies and that's what they'll tell you. Finding a company knows that is a whole other story however.
  • Self credit check (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aphex Junkie (633436)
    What about running a credit check on yourself (costs ~$12) and presenting them a copy of it (maybe with the non-essential details redacted)? I mean, you get the same information they do, so what's the big idea? You can forge a printout, but you can't forge anything when you present it from a website (such as MyFICO). In fact, looking at the credit report I printed earlier, I can see that the SSN is redacted automatically and only the last 4 digits are shown. The rest of the information is public knowledge
    • by julesh (229690)

      What about running a credit check on yourself (costs ~$12) and presenting them a copy of it (maybe with the non-essential details redacted)?

      The carrier may be insuring themselves against losses from non-paying customers. The insurers will probably require them to carry out the credit check themselves as a due diligence requirement.

    • Absoutely Not (Score:3, Interesting)

      I Am A Landlord. And I would never allow this. It's just too easy to play games with something someone printed off at home.

      I have had applicants show up with credit report in hand before, and I have told them that I'd be happy to go over their report with them and see if they'll qualify before they hand over their SSN, but that I'll still have to run their credit using my service to verify the accuracy.

      Some still apply, some don't. No skin off my back.

  • by St.Creed (853824) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:26AM (#28418735)
    Here in The Netherlands we already have had a few of those schemes, for example for the iPhone. Apple decided to go with T-Mobile, which may work fine in a few other countries (Germany, Austria), but over here I can only get reception when I'm on the 2nd floor of my house, or in the center of the city. While having to give out your SSN is not good, at least you have a working phone afterwards. Here we have to do the same (they photocopy your passport etc. as well) and then discover you can't use it... It was one of the reasons I did not buy an iPhone. Fortunately Belgium has outlawed exclusive contracts so I can go there and pick one up. Still, the attitude of "screw the customer, we get more money this way" does nothing for Apple's image and sealed my decision to keep my old phone for now.
    • There's not a lot our government gets right but here in Oz we have a TFN (same thing as a SSN), private companies cannot request it except for specific tax related purposes and even then you can refuse (the drawback being you pay the highest tax and have to claim it back), the tax department rules are here [privacy.gov.au]. In other words a TFN is useless for checking someones credit rating.

      Also monopoly deals as seen with Apple/phone_company_X, and Ebay/paypal are illegal.
    • by Kindaian (577374)

      Old phones are good...

      Good for your pocket and the environment.

      Remember... that before the 3 R... there are 3 more R... that people [r]arelly use:

      [R]efurbish, [R]epair and [R]euse... ;)

      • by xaxa (988988)

        You missed the most important one of all: [R]educe!

        My phone is "old" (2 years?) but it was a "nice" (thin and silver) one when I bought it. It's beginning to fall apart, I don't think the fashionable phones are made very well.

  • by rennerik (1256370)
    ... well, at least, the ones I've had experience with.

    I've been with T-Mobile (BlackBerry), AT&T (iPhone), and now Sprint (Pre), and they all asked for SSN when signing up. I don't think any place is going to let you into a contract with a subsidized phone without running a credit check (hence the SSN request), especially with the economy in the shape it is nowadays.

    Did you have experience at another provider that didn't ask for an SSN when selling you a subsidized phone?
  • by hattig (47930) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:34AM (#28418805) Journal

    So the gist of this story is that the submitter doesn't understand finance?

    A Palm Pre, or any other smartphone, costs a boat load and is subsidised by the carrier, but you need a contract to pay back the cost of the phone. In effect you are getting a $400 - $800 loan, depending on the device, the phone, and the contract/amount it is subsidised.

    Now normal loans (not just "car loans" which are just one type of typically unsecured loan) usually have a credit check because it would be stupid to lend money to someone with a credit history that is all arrears and defaults. The poster probably doesn't realise that many, many people actually live life in debt, arrears and defaulting, and that a simple credit check can remove a lot of risk for the phone companies.

    The obvious solution in this case is to allow someone to buy the Palm Pre at full price, and then supply them with a rolling contract (without subsidy cost factored in).

    • by noidentity (188756) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:53AM (#28418917)

      So the gist of this story is that the submitter doesn't understand finance? A Palm Pre [...] costs a boat load and is subsidised by the carrier, but you need a contract to pay back the cost of the phone. In effect you are getting a $400 - $800 loan [...]

      So the gist of your post is that you don't read the story? In particular, this part:

      I offered several other options, including [...] placing the maximum deposit that Sprint requires from people with poor credit ($500) [...]

      • I offered several other options, including [...] placing the maximum deposit that Sprint requires from people with poor credit ($500) [...]

        So.. Obviously it's cheaper for them to lose a handful of costumers than to add alternatives to an external Credit-Check to their sales system.

  • Gross assumption (Score:5, Interesting)

    by midicase (902333) on Monday June 22, 2009 @05:35AM (#28418813)

    that everyone has a social security number. There is no requirement to have one. I love the stunned looks I get when I reply "I don't have one". I actually have one, but they don't need to know that either.

    • by houghi (78078)

      I also would think that a SSN is a Number for your Social Security. It should be used only for that. No excuses, no exception.

      • by dissy (172727)

        I also would think that a SSN is a Number for your Social Security. It should be used only for that. No excuses, no exception.

        It is really confusing actually. If you believe the social security department, Sprint should be fined bundles of cash each time they ask this question of someone. If you believe the real world however, your SSN is the country wide standard identification number for you.

        The back of my SSN card clearly states it is a crime to use that number for any purposes outside of social security, and is not to be used for identification purposes.

        I keep my original card at home in a safe. This has always been 'best p

    • Re:Gross assumption (Score:5, Informative)

      by SkyDude (919251) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:05AM (#28419431)

      that everyone has a social security number. There is no requirement to have one. I love the stunned looks I get when I reply "I don't have one". I actually have one, but they don't need to know that either.

      You're correct that an SSN is not required, but assuming you are employed, your employer IS required to file taxes in your name and that requires an SSN.

      If you are employed, file taxes and wish to take a deduction for your child, the child must have an SSN. Hospitals now routinely fill out and transmit the SSN paper work before your infant even leaves the hospital.

      The Exalted One's administration (Obama) recently filed for legislation to "overhaul" the credit card industry, but AFAIK, never touched the SSN requirement. Why? Because the banking lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington.

      On the front of your SSN card it says "Not For Identification", yet businesses have routinely done so for decades. It's time to put a stop to this abuse and require business to establish a secure option to the SSN. Losing control of your SSN is handing over the keys to the castle. If businesses can't manage to secure CC numbers, how can we trust them to secure this most important number?

  • by Zouden (232738) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:05AM (#28418993)

    Welcome to America, land of the free*

    *terms and conditions apply. See in store for details.

  • It's worse over here (Score:3, Informative)

    by dalmiroy2k (768278) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:10AM (#28419045)

    I live in Argentina and in order to legally buy a cellphone you need (to have and) show your DNI (ID) and not only that, they also do 2 photocopies of it.(The store keeps one archived and the other goes to the government for investigation).
    A lot of people are actually banned from buying equipment or new cell lines, so they often go to the black market to fulfill their needs.
    Regardless of that, I only use my D.N.I. (National ID document) for voting and bank related paperwork. For general ID we got a CI (ID card) that according to the law we should carry it at all times). Oh, also we need a driving license if you are driving so there goes ID # 3.

  • by __david__ (45671) * on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:38AM (#28419249) Homepage

    When I tried to sign up for Verizon's wireless data service they wouldn't let me pass the credit check without a land line. I tried to tell them I didn't have a land line but they couldn't cope with that. Eventually the girl at the counter gave her sister's apartment number to the credit check guys (she didn't have a land line either). Got to love unbending bureaucracy.

  • by irtza (893217) on Monday June 22, 2009 @06:56AM (#28419373) Homepage
    http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_financial_services/004801.html [consumersunion.org] Apparently in some states, they should not be able to do this. Of course I may not understand the full extent of the law as it applies, but it seems to me that this is a consumer product and they are refusing to sell based off of a lack of social security num...
  • by shabble (90296) <qkjj13x02@sneakemail.com> on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:03AM (#28419429)

    It is not beyond the wit of the credit reference agencies to identify a US citizen from stuff other than the (it appears horribly abused) SSN?

    I mean, if Experian can manage it in the UK (Name, Address, DOB is usually enough to identify you with the CRA,) why can't they do it in the US?

    Or is this just simply laziness on the part of the CRAs?

  • by markdavis (642305) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:27AM (#28419605)

    Where have YOU been? Didn't you know that over the past 20 years, the SSN has turned into the National ID Number? It doesn't matter that there was EXTREME concern that this might happen way back when the SSN was invented, it happened anyway.

    Your right to privacy and anonymous purchasing disappeared a long time ago, so get used to it. "Credit checks" were just the first step. After that, it was manipulated for tax purposes. Then it spread to all kinds of interesting other "must have" situations or they refuse service. Even several doctor's offices I went to (and no, they weren't running a credit check nor was I on Medicare/Medicaid) HAD to have my SSN. PROSPECTIVE employers insist they HAVE to have the SSN. Movie rental places seem to think they HAVE to have your SSN. It took MANY YEARS of fighting before the citizens in my state FINALLY had the SSN removed as the mandatory driver's license number.

    The package will be nice and complete once the Fed starts to force collection of fingerprints and DNA from everyone; it is coming... Most Americans don't have any understanding about privacy and security. "If you have nothing to hide" and all that, is the typical, brainless, response.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      I think I'm going to start a business and in addition to SSN's, I'm going to start requiring people to sign over Power of Attorney before I let them sign the contract for whatever it is I'm going to sell.

      It doesn't matter that there was EXTREME concern that this might happen way back when the SSN was invented, it happened anyway.

      Well, to be fair, that was probably the real point of the exercise. The opposition even realized it and complained, but they apparently were soothed by the lies or weren't squeaky or numerous enough to prevent the atrocity. There was a depression going on at the time, so we had to do something and that wa

  • Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:46AM (#28419743)

    Don't buy it.

    If you don't want to sell me something on sensible terms, I don't want to buy. Supply has to match demand at least at a nominal level, if it does not, no sale.

    I dunno, when did we get so desperate to buy that we bent over backwards on whatever our possible business partner wants? I could see it for food or shelter, but for electronic gadgets? First, I lived without one so far, I will be able to survive without one. I have proof that I can (I lived so far). Second, my life depends on many things, but not on this one.

    Bottom line: I will survive without you as my supplier. Will you survive without me as your customer?

  • I don't see how the SSN requirement has anything to do with carrier exclusivity agreements for phones. The Palm Pre is a TDMA phone that will only work on Sprint anyways. We aren't talking about a GSM phone that can be moved to other carriers. If palm wanted the Pre to work on other networks they would have to introduce additional models for the other protocols that are used in this country and/or the rest of the world.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 22, 2009 @08:03AM (#28419883)

    This seems to be one of those things where sure, you can insist on your rights and you'll simply miss out on things. Want a Pre? Then submit. It's a free country, don't be a whiner, yadda yadda. You need a credit check to get a job. Hey, you know what? Someone who's been out of work a while in this economy might have bad credit! Well, we certainly can't let a filthy fucker like that get a head up!

  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Monday June 22, 2009 @01:15PM (#28424799) Homepage Journal

    There are few scams that are basically money generating, its not about security for the customer.
    * Larger cellular companies charge more per minute and plan on credit plan.
    * Credit score companies make money selling this information, and they are not correct or regulated, and they differ between companies.

    Basically the mantra, we have to charge higher interest rates on poor credit because they are poor risk, is false. If they could charge everyone the higher interest rates they would. Thus the reason for some states putting caps on loan fees, and the federal government capping on military (most are minimum wage earners) loans.

    ATT can sell prepaid minutes at 35 cents a minute to poor credit holders at 10 cents to good credit. They would take every penny they can with the lie of "credit" and they are not the only company doing this, just one of the most visible.

    Its basically a scam, but you have to think why they need your SSN. They need it for credit, so they can figure out how much to charge you. If any service has to figure out how much more they can charge you, its basically a scam. This is why the smaller local regional banks and credit unions would verify income to loan money. But the feds stepped in and told them they had to loan more money, and threatened with "lower bank credit scores" for not loaning money, and mark the banks rating down for now loaning enough money!

    Credit scores, was used against the banks by the feds, and the banks for greed on mortgages. We all want a capital society, but false credit scores are so ingrained in our banking system that its hurting the poor, ripping off the middle class, and forcing large companies to turn away cash paying customers.

    I wont even go into the whole unregulated federal reserve, which isn't federal but a privately owned bank, that was never audited...

    Ever have a 5 year old ask you the why game? Try it yourself, why do you need to have use a SSN for a phone? Because we need to do a credit check. Why the credit check? So they can figure out what plan and interest rate to charge you. Why does a different interst rate, etc...

    We don't tend to do that anymore, just accept and move on. Common sense is lacking, and if you question something, you must be a nut job. Why wouldnt you just accept and move on. Trouble maker or nut job.

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