Name, address, date of birthdate, Social Security number. How many times have you filled out those fields on a form, not giving a second guess as to whether you should provide the information?

Unfortunately, the security breaches, leaks and attacks that have become so common show your information is safe in few hands. (If the CIA and FBI can’t guarantee security, what hope does a local dentist office have?) That means it’s up to you to limit the damage.

Companies and institutions generally err on the side of asking for more info than they need, and that’s especially true when it comes to your Social Security number.

Instead of handing it out to anyone who asks, educate yourself on when you’re required to provide your Social Security number and when you can say “no thank you.”

A quick note: Remember, your Social Security number is a key part of your identity. Fraudsters can use it to, among other things, create and use credit accounts, take out loans, make large purchases, defraud the government or obtain medical treatment. It’s yours to protect and yours to keep private.

The same goes for your child’s Social Security number. He or she isn’t in a position to protect that number, so it’s up to you as the parent.

When to say no