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Why A Social Security Number is Required to Get a Prepaid Debit Card

One of the questions we get a lot is whether you can get a prepaid debit card without a social security number. The answer depends on the type of prepaid card you want. For a prepaid gift card, for example, a social security number is not required. For a reloadable prepaid Visa or MasterCard, your name, address, date of birth and social security number are required. Now the big question is why. Let's take a closer look. Following 9/11, the federal government passed the USA Patriot Act. As authorized by the Act, The Department of the Treasury, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the seven federal financial regulators issued final rules that require certain financial institutions to establish procedures to verify the identity of new accountholders (see the press release). The purpose of these rules was to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, identity theft, and other forms of fraud. The new regulations require that financial institutions implement reasonable procedures to
  1. verify the identity of any person opening an account;
  2. maintain records of the information used to verify the person’s identity; and
  3. determine whether the person appears on any list of known or suspected terrorists or terrorist organizations.
More specifically, the regulations require that financial institutions implement procedures for collecting standard information such as a customer’s name, address, date of birth and a taxpayer identification number (for U.S. persons, typically a social security number and for non-U.S. persons, a similar number from a government-issued document). These requirements required financial institutions to comply by October 1, 2003. These rules apply to the following types of financial institutions: Because reloadable prepaid cards are issued by banks, they must comply with these regulations. As such, they require your social security number to activate a card.

Can You Use a Fake Social Security Number?

Believe it or not, a lot of people ask whether they can get away with a fake social security number. Years ago the answer was probably yes. Today, the regulations cited above require financial institutions not only to obtain an applicant's social security number, but also to take reasonable steps to ensure that the applicant is who he or she says they are. In short, fake identification won't work.