If someone wants to cash a check, they must have a social security number and a driver's license.
ARE WE TALKING ABOUT PERSONAL CHECKS OR PAYROLL CHECKS?
We are talking about payroll checks. Wal-Mart DOES NOT CASH PERSONAL CHECKS. You cannot walk up to my register, say "I'd like to cash this check, write a personal check for $900 and let me cash it. Will never happen in a million years. Personal checks may be written to cover the amount of your merchandise purchase, plus a maximum of $20 cash back. This process does not require a social security number, but does require a valid drivers license.
WHY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS?
The question on everyone's keyboard seems to be WHY WHY WHY? Well, the answer lies with a holding company called Fidelity National Financial, which in turn owns Fidelity National Information Services, which in turn operates Certegy Check Services, of which one service is the payroll check cashing division.
Certegy is the name of the company on those little pieces of paper that the register burps up after a failed check transaction. Certegy uses ONLY social security numbers and drivers licenses IN CONCERT to verify payroll check transactions.
The closest thing to a national identity database in the post-9/11 world is the network of state drivers licenses and ID cards. All of which REQUIRE a social security number to legally obtain. Black market, that's another issue...
You may only legally be paid for work in this country if you have a social - thus, Wal-Mart (or any other company) may only LEGALLY cash your check if you have a social security number.
So that's why we have to have a social. The company Wal-Mart uses to verify the check says you have to have a social. For the record, I never see the social. It is not printed on the back of the check. It is only entered on the keypad by the person who is attempting to cash the check.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY PASSPORT? RESIDENT ALIEN CARD?
There's nothing wrong with it. I don't like the picture in mine. You probably don't like the picture in yours. It has nothing to do with identification. LET ME REPEAT THAT REAL LOUD. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IDENTIFICATION. Passports are the uber-identification. Certegy don't care though. The Department of State does not sell passport information to data-mining companies. That's probably why Certegy doesn't use passport data.
SO IT HAS TO BE A DRIVER LICENSE?
Yes. Either that, or a state-issued identification card, which looks like a driver license but says "NOT VALID FOR MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATION" or somesuch on it. If you have a valid social security number, you can get one. They are very useful, mostly for cashing and writing checks.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER PROBLEMS?
Hyphenated names. Double last names, like Martinez Lopez or Smith Barney. Because we don't have a <SPACE> on our keyboard, the system won't let us input these, so they have to call the 1-800 number and have an operator put them in manually. People tend to get real hot when this happens. It's a crap system. I'm sure Wal-Mart lowballed them on the bid. But don't blow up at me. You don't have a bank account. You did NOT get that payroll check on Sunday. Deal.
I FOLDED MY CHECK UP. I GOT MY CHECK WET. MY DOG ATE MY CHECK. YOU GONNA CASH IT, RIGHT?
Yo mama didn't beat you enough did she? You see those little numbers on the bottom? That is the information that tells my piece of junk check reader where your company's money is stored. You really, really want my junky check reader to be able to read those numbers. When you fold your check, it damages those numbers. Ditto for cramming it in your pocket like a wad of tissue paper. And that dumb boy that brought the check in that he not only spilled Sprite on but then tore apart while trying to take if off the stub -- dude, you're an industrial accident waiting to happen.
IF ALL MY STUFF IS GOOD, WHY WON'T MY CHECK CASH?
Well, the most common event is that at some point in the past, your company didn't have enough money in its account to cover its payroll. Wal-Mart at that point cuts them off like a gangrenous leg. SLICE. CAUTERIZE. Or, in isolated cases, your own firm got your data wrong and when Certegy tries to confirm that John Jones with social 124-43-1236 works for ABC Delivery, it comes up with a social one number off. And sometimes, if you name has changed, as in cases of divorce or remarriage, the system has not registered that, especially if the license and the name that goes with the social are not in perfect agreement.