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I went to sign up for a new Comcast account online. They asked me for some basic billing info, but also asked for my DOB and SSN, which I'd rather not give to them out of concern about identity theft.

Comcast signup info - billing

The claim is that they need it to run a credit check (ok, fair enough):

Comcast signup info - SSN

But then wait! There is an alternative - I can pay a $50 deposit instead. Or so I thought:

Comcast signup info - deposit

They still ask for my SSN! I thought that perhaps it was now an optional field, but as you can see from the validation message:

Comcast signup info - form validation

So, it would seem that they are not giving me a choice here. Is this legal? Are they allowed to require my SSN just to set up service?

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    I don't believe they actually require your SSN as a company policy. So let's assume they don't; then one of two things is happening. Either 1) you can leave the SSN blank and what's triggering the error is that you actually left the other stuff blank, or 2) they require it for applying online, which is different. If #2 is actually the case, it is different than having a SSN-required policy because they may allow you to apply in other ways (e.g. in person, by phone). Some good info here. – Pat W. Nov 19 '15 at 22:06
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    @PatW. there is another possibility: a bug in the form. It may be that SSN is not supposed to be a required field if the customer is electing to pay the deposit, but that the form's validation is defined incorrectly and is requiring it in error. – phoog Nov 20 '15 at 21:45
  • @phoog Sounds pretty feasible – Pat W. Nov 20 '15 at 22:18
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    Well, after talking to several different CSR's, we got someone who waived the SSN and deposit entirely. They definitely sounded surprised by the description of the form. – alexw Nov 20 '15 at 23:00
  • I believe, like all things Comcast, this is an asterisk situation where "you must provide us with your SSN✱". – alexw Nov 20 '15 at 23:07
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Comcast, and many other utility companies, will ask you for your SSN and will insist on it giving you many times with false answers. I recommend you ask them if they have an alternative, which they most probably will say no because the person you are speaking with is not used to, and/or not trained to give alternatives.

The reason they ask for your SSN is for doing a credit check on you to make sure you are able to to pay your bills - and n case you don't - to ruin your life by ruining your credit score.

From their "Comcast Customer Privacy Notice":

What kind of personally identifiable information and CPNI does Comcast collect?

Comcast collects information from you at several different points when you request, turn on, and use our services under an account we create for you. Some of this information is personally identifiable information, but much of it is not. We collect certain personally identifiable information that our subscribers furnish to us in connection with the provision of cable service or other services. In order to provide reliable, high quality service to you, we keep regular business records containing information about you that may constitute personally identifiable information. These account records include some, but typically not all, of the following information...

However, legally speaking, they cannot bind their services to your credit worthiness. They do provide an alternative when asked about it. Most probably they will ask some sort of a monetary deposit in order to open the account. This deposit may, or may not, be spread across several billing cycles. The deposit is their financial guarantee in case you fall behind on your payments. What should you do:

  1. Ask them what is the deposit amount.
  2. Can the deposit be spread across multiple bulling cycles
  3. What is the time period that that after it they will return you the deposit.
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    Thanks. I don't mind paying them the deposit, actually - even if I never get it back, $50 is worth the peace of mind for protection against identity theft. It's just that their signup form gives the impression that either way I have to give them my SSN (but if I pay them a deposit, they "promise" not to use it). – alexw Nov 20 '15 at 16:56
  • Please do share your experience with what happened at the end (in the comments section) – Mike K Dec 11 '15 at 14:57
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    We called instead of using their website, and then used the "keep calling back until you get someone who will accommodate you" strategy. Surprisingly, the last person we got didn't require my SSN or a deposit. – alexw Dec 11 '15 at 20:11
  • The question here is, are they legally allowed to troll costumers around hoping that they will just give up? If yes (which is the probable answer), do they have a limit on how much they can troll... – Mike K Dec 12 '15 at 13:37
  • They can troll as much as they want. What stops them? Is there a law preventing you from trolling them? No and No. They can do that. The reps either do not know any better - or (most probably) are being coached to try and get the SSN because once they have it - they have a higher probability of going after you to ruin your score in case you do not pay you $49.99 – Mike K Jan 17 '17 at 19:47
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2017-Jan update: Comcast doesn't require your SSN, if you set up autopay. Here's an excerpt from an online chat session at xfinity.com:

Comcast doesn't force you to give your SSN

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