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Volunteer’s choice to reveal Social Security number

For Tuesday, April 26, 2011

By June Watanabe


Question: I’ve been told over and over never to give out your Social Security number. I have volunteered for more than 25 years as a driver, but now they want my number to check my past driving record. It’s been so long, about 40 years, that I cannot remember the last time I received a ticket. I have provided a copy of my driver’s license, and if they want they can get a traffic abstract. But because I refuse to give them my Social Security number, I no longer can drive for them. Am I right in refusing to give it?

Answer: It’s not a matter of right or wrong.

In this situation, according to the Social Security Administration, it’s a voluntary choice.

It warns that you should avoid giving your Social Security number “unnecessarily.” However, a nongovernment retailer, business or organization is allowed to ask for the number. There’s no law against that. But, if you don’t give it, you can be denied a service or goods or, in this case, your volunteer services.

If you are asked for your number, you should ask why the number is needed; how it will be used; what happens if you refuse; and what law, if any, requires you to provide it.

“The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number,” according to the Social Security Administration.

Meanwhile, there are specific laws that require you to provide the number, among them, to the Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans; employers for wage and tax reporting purposes; states for the school lunch program, child support enforcement, commercial driver’s licenses, food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or driver’s license law; banks for monetary transactions; the Veterans Administration for hospital admission; the Department of Labor for workers’ compensation; the Department of Education for student loans; and the U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds.

For more information see

Q: I purchased some noni juice at a vitamin shop recently, and the container leaked. I returned the unopened container with the sealed top intact to the shop and was refused an exchange without a sales slip or membership to the store. I still have the sealed container minus half the juice. Is there an agency that I can report the defect as there might be other patrons with similar problems?

A: Contact the state Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch if the product was produced in Hawaii.

If the product was produced elsewhere, the state Food and Drug Branch does not have jurisdiction and recommends contacting the manufacturer directly.

The concern is that a leaky container can potentially be a health hazard since a hole not only can allow the contents to leak out, but allow bacteria to find its way in.

You can contact the Sanitation Branch at 586-8000. You are asked to provide the following information: your name and phone number so the inspector can follow up with you; overall nature of your concern (leaking bottle, expired product, etc.); and product information, including name, code/lot number, manufacturer/distributor and date/time of purchase, said Lori Nagatoshi, acting program manager at the Food and Drug Branch.


To the very young woman in a black truck or van who was in the parking lot of the post office on April 7. She damaged an elderly woman’s car, abused her, then drove off.

— L. Rose

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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