The office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on October 10, 2001, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Use of Social Security Number on Insurance Policies
May New York carriers utilize the social security number of an insured to number and identify the policy issued to that insured?
Yes. Such requirement does not violate Federal or State law.
The inquirers organization has received complaints from insureds of a particular, although unnamed, carrier as to the practice of that carrier in using the social security number of the insureds as the identifying numbers of automobile and homeowner polices issued to its insureds.
While the Social Security Act limits the circumstances under which a state may require an individual to provide his or her social security number, 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(c)(i)(West 1991), there is no such prohibition directed at private entities in this regard. Neither does New York law prohibit insurers from requiring and utilizing the social security numbers of insureds as identification numbers for policies issued to the insured.
It should be noted that when an applicant does furnish their social security number to an insurer, the use of this information by the insurer is subject to the requirements of the Department's Privacy Regulation, N.Y. Comp. R. & Regs. tit. 11 § 420.3 (2001).
For further information you may contact Supervising Attorney Lawrence M. Fuchsberg at the New York City Office.