I am wondering why cell phone service providers need my SSN (social security number)?  You should too.

T Mobile was hacked again.  For the second time this year.  And it’s barely May.

In the first instance, hackers accessed the personal information of 37 million users.  According to T Mobile, only 836 were impacted by the latest hack.  I guess that counts as progress.

I realize that company databases are breached daily.  What disturbs me about this particular breach is that it included users’ SSNs.

Why do cell service providers require users’ SSNs?  Online forums suggest that it is purely for making credit decisions.  Firms like T-Mobile, Verizon-Wireless, Sprint, and AT&T use SSNs to run credit checks on prospective customers.  OK.  But is this really necessary if I am linking a credit card to my account?  Or linking a bank account?  Seems like the credit risks would be greatly reduced.

It’s baffling.

Yes, one can open a prepaid account without providing an SSN.  I have one at Verizon-Wireless.  It’s fine . . . if you don’t mind being treated like a second-class citizen.  Online access to my pay-as-you-go account lacks basic security elements.  There are no two step verification options, for instance.  Nowhere can one input secondary email or phone contacts.  The basic understanding appears to be this: “If you want better account security options give us your SSN.”


Sounds like a bad bargain.  T Mobile has disclosed data breaches nine times since 2018.  It is not alone.  Here is a short list of recent cell phone service provider data breaches:

Provider Date Users Impacted
T Mobile Mar. 27, 2023 836
T Mobile Jan. 20, 2023 37 million
Verizon Wireless Feb.  8, 2023 7.5 million
Sprint Aug.  9, 2022 Undisclosed
AT&T Mar.  9, 2023 9 million
US Cellular Feb.  6, 2023 52,000

Bear in mind that these are the disclosed data breaches.  Chances are that there are others that have gone undetected.

So, why should you trust your SSN (and perhaps your credit card and/or bank information) to these companies?

Good question.

If you would like to suggest other questions to me, click here.

Peter Dragone - Co-founder of Keurig.