In order for your business to accept credit card and debit card payments, you'll need to open a merchant account. Once you've decided which merchant services provider you'd like to open an account with, you'll begin the application process. During this process, you will most likely be asked to provide your Social Security Number and home address.
Sharing this information fulfills a legally mandated requirement meant to protect against illicit financial activities and will be required by most major banks or credit card processors that you file an application with.
Why do I need to give my Social Security Number?
Providing information, such as a Social Security Number, when applying for a merchant account is used for identity verification purposes required in accordance with Section 326 of the U.S. Patriot Act, signed into law in October 2001 in response to the events of September 11.
The Act is enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which is responsible for overseeing financial transactions within the United States. Merchant accounts, by definition, facilitate such transactions in real time, across the country and even internationally. Therefore, they must adhere to these requirements.
In order to remain compliant with the Act, all financial institutions are mandated to develop a Customer Identification Program (CIP), which lays out comprehensive measures to verify the identities of anyone looking to open an account. Otherwise, the OFAC would be unable to systematically prevent individuals committing money-laundering, drug trafficking or acts of terrorism from receiving such financial services.
As MerchantPro Express manages its credit processing through First Data Merchant Services, MPX must follow First Data's CIP, which requires a Social Security Number and home address.
Providing this information each time you apply for a merchant account is necessary for guarding against illegal and harmful activities.
While some institutions allow for other Tax Identification Numbers as part of their CIPs, a Social Security Number is the most widely used form of identification, required by most reputable credit processors.
Under some special circumstances, the requirement for a Social Security Number may be waived, though this is uncommon. In those events, a valid passport or a drivers license and birth certificate may be used in lieu of a Social Security Number. However, applicants in these cases must also provide two years of financial records in order to move forward in the application process.