EIN stands for Employer Identification Number. You might think of it as the equivalent of a Social Security Number for businesses. Mystery shoppers are not required to obtain EINs, however, many choose to do so. With all the concerns about online privacy and identity theft, mystery shoppers are more likely than ever to want to protect their Social Security Numbers. Having an EIN is one way to do that. Here is what you need to know about what an EIN is, why you might want one, and how to go about getting one. (It’s faster and easier than you may think.)
EINs are issued to businesses by the Internal Revenue Service. They are required for companies with employees and certain other types of businesses. Most mystery shoppers are sole proprietors who work as independent contractors. That means that we are not required to have EINs, but we are eligible.
Why would you want an EIN? Many mystery shoppers are uncomfortable about giving out their Social Security Numbers (SSN) online each time they register with a mystery shopping company. Protecting your SSN is a good idea, because scammers can use it to steal your identity.
Although most companies have secure web sites (I would NEVER enter my Social Security Number or other sensitive data on a site that is not secure.) that is no such thing as data being 100% safe and secure. That is true whether we are talking about applying for mystery shopper jobs online, buying something with a credit card at a local restaurant, or any other way personal data may be used.
When you have an EIN, you may use it in place of your SSN in your business dealings. Most mystery shopping companies will have no problem with you entering an EIN rather than a SSN. You may also use your EIN in other business-related activities such as opening a business bank account and filing your income tax return. Do not use your EIN in non-business circumstances where a SSN is requested, or when applying for a job where you would be classified as an employee. The EIN is only for your business dealings.
EINs are free, and it is easier than ever to get one. In fact, you can apply for an EIN online and have your number in minutes.
Even though using an EIN in place of your SSN provides a measure of protection, if you are concerned about identity theft, you may wish to use a service such as LifeLock. I signed up a while back, and I like the peace of mind they provide.