If you have or are applying for a security clearance, you’re likely used to signing away intimate details into the interwebs. But you’re also likely security-conscious. Which can create a real catch-22 for candidates who want to protect their personal information, but work in national security. One question that candidates sometimes ask is why recruiters need to ask for their social security number in order to verify their security clearance – and how to ensure those requests are legit.

SSNs are used by recruiters to verify an individual’s security clearance in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), or Defense Information System for Security (DSS). JPAS is being phased out in favor of the new DSS, but what both have in common is the use of SSN to verify an individual’s security clearance status. If you’re leery about giving away personal information over the phone (and you should be), here are a couple of options.

How to Verify a Recruiter’s Contact Information

1. Ask the recruiter for a company contact number/look for the recruiter on a company website.

First, a SSN isn’t the first thing a recruiter should ask for – but it may be one aspect of an initial applicant screen. It’s okay to ask the recruiter to provide the number of a contact directory with their company, or a company website where you can verify who they are. You can also ask them to connect with you on ClearanceJobs – a password protected profile where only U.S.-based companies are allowed to create profiles.

While you can look up the recruiter on a public facing site like LinkedIn, keep in mind how easy it is to create a fake profile. Just because you can find a ‘recruiter’ online doesn’t mean they are one.

2. Ask the FSO to call you.

Yes, a SCAM artist may have their mom call you and pretend to be the Facility Security Officer (FSO) for the company in question, but most basic phishing scams are not that robust. If you can get a security officer with the company to reach out, they can also verify your security clearance information. You may also ask the recruiter to provide the contact information for their FSO, but being secret squirrel-types, it’s probably better if they contact you.

It may seem antiquated to have to provide your SSN over the phone to every recruiter who reaches out about a cleared job. But keep in mind that applying for a security clearance position is a bit more serious than applying for a car loan or credit card – two other processes that require you to pony up your SSN before moving forward. In a candidate’s market, it’s certainly an option for you to only give out your SSN for a position you’re serious about. If you don’t want to kiss on the first date, it’s okay to tell the recruiter you’ll call him or her back later after you’ve had time to consider the opportunity and know if the job is a good fit for you.

Yes, recruiters will request your SSN to verify your security clearance. But whether or not you give it to them should depend on how interested you are in the company and position.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer