Why do you need my PIN, passcode, or the last four digits of SSN to negotiate?

Bill providers have security and authentication protocols around accessing your account. The most common additional layer of security is for there to be a numeric PIN or alphanumeric passcode on your account—these are mandatory for many providers and optional for even more. Often, providers will require the last four digits of your social security number instead. When you call your provider, they ask you for this information to prove you’re you and can access the account. So, when we call, they’ll ask us as well.

Do you actually need my PIN or passcode?

If we’re asking you it, the answer is almost always yes.

If you’re reading this article before signing up, in theory it’s possible that we might ask for your PIN or passcode during the signup process because some providers only requires a PIN or passcode sometimes. However, if we’ve sent you an email, or you’ve got a big yellow information banner on your dashboard, it means we actually already called the provider and weren’t able to get in with the information we already had.

We try to minimize what we ask for, but unfortunately sometimes there’s just something like a PIN that we absolutely need to negotiate or they won’t let us.

What about my Social Security Number (SSN?)

Many providers, like Comcast, use the last four digits of your social security number instead of setting a custom PIN since you had to provide it to sign up and it’s generally private. Plus, it’s harder for you to forget. For some providers, if you haven’t set a PIN, they’ll default to your social. Generally speaking, SSNs make for a bad security question, but we don’t make the rules. So, if the provider asks for the last four digits of your SSN when you call, then we’ll likely need it as well. If we send you an email or a message on your dashboard asking, it means we already tried to contact your provider, but they wouldn’t let us in without it.

While we will regularly ask people for the last four digits of your social security number, we will never ask for your full social security number. And it’s generally a bad idea to give it out, as it can be used for identity theft. Once you’ve signed up, common providers for things like TV or Internet will never ask for a full social as an authentication method. If they do (or you think we are), double check that you are on the correct website or speaking to the real company.

One more thing: generally speaking, the last four of the SSN on file will be for the Account Holder. So, for example, if the bill is in your spouse’s or roommates name, you’ll need THEIRS instead of your own. If you gave us yours and it didn’t work, double check who the bill is under. However, if you know for sure what’s on file and it’s not the account holder’s, trust your own knowledge.

How do I know what my PIN or passcode is?

Generally speaking, you’ll have set up your PIN or passcode yourself, probably either on their website or when you first activated service or called in. It might be a common PIN of yours or something you set specifically for this bill. In some cases, one will have been assigned automatically to you. It’s different than your password to log in online (which we don’t need.) If you’ve ever called your provider and they asked for a PIN or code (not just a one time one sent to your phone) then that’s it.

What kind of PIN or passcode is it?

Generally, we’ll differentiate when we ask between PINs, which are all numbers, and passcodes, which are usually just a word. So, if we ask for a PIN, think numbers. If we ask for a passcode, think word.

Different providers have different criteria for their PINs and passcodes. For example, for AT&T, your PIN will have to be a number between 4-8 digits but for Sprint, it can be between 6-10 digits. For ADT, the passcode will almost always be one simple word, like “Banana” although in theory it could contain other characters. We’ll do our best to provide any information we know ahead of times, but sometimes all the provider will tell us is that there’s a PIN or passcode on the account.

What if I don’t know my PIN or passcode? How do I reset it?

You can often find or reset your security info in the account settings page of your online account or app. For example, here’s how to reset an AT&T PIN. If you don’t have access to your online login, you can call your provider (or visit a physical location) to reset it. They will generally send a one time passcode to your phone so you can reset the permanent one. If they do, we’ll need the new permanent one, not the one-time passcode. If you’re having trouble finding out how to do that, we can give you specific instructions by provider if you contact us.

What if I already sent you my PIN/passcode, but you asked me for it again?

Sometimes, your PIN or passcode with your provider might not be what you thought. The only reason we’ll ever ask for a PIN a second time is if we actually called your provider, gave them the info you gave us, and they said that it was incorrect. So, unfortunately, that means something isn’t right. You can double check that there weren’t any typos in what you sent us or try sending us another guess, but the only way to be sure you send the correct one is to reset your PIN using the instructions above.

What if I don’t want to share my PIN or passcode?

We completely get it. We take security very seriously and would never share your information with somebody other than your provider, but we still understand why you wouldn’t want to share it with us. You might use that same PIN for other things, like a bank account (although for security reasons we always recommend having separate PINs) or you might just not want us to have access to your account after we finish negotiating. So, what can you do?

One option is to temporarily reset your PIN. You can change it to something with no significance, send it to us, we’ll negotiate, and then once you get the results, you can change it back. Just make sure that if you have AutoFix on, that you do the same thing the next time we’re scheduled to negotiate. Or, if you just didn’t want to share a PIN that had significance for other things, you can just leave it.

Another option is to provide us with an alternate security method, like the answers to security questions. This can be tricky, since most providers will have multiple security questions. Please make sure to let us know both the question and the answer, since sometimes answers can be ambiguous. (How are we supposed to know that Blue is the name of your dog, not the color of your first car?!)

If you’re concerned about sending us the information online, you can start by only entering in the info in your online account, where anything you submit will be encrypted in transmit. Or, you can call us at (707) 532-4557 during business hours and give us the passcode over the phone so that you don’t have to transmit it online.

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