An Employee Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number for a business, estate and trust. So, if you are starting a business (most banks want one for the checking account and you must have one if you have employees), creating a trust or administering the estate of someone you, may need one.
To obtain an EIN, you need to fill out the SS-4. This can be mailed in but it can be done online in just a few minutes. The first step is to download the form from the IRS web site. Use the form to compile the info you will need. The next step is to go back to the IRS web site and use their EIN application tool. (I run a search for "ss4 online" and it's the first result. They will walk you though and at the end of the process you will have a number. Just make sure you print that page. Then you will have the option of downloading the official letter or having it mailed. No matter which option you chose, keep the letter safe.
There is no need to do one of the commercial EIN generators. These will cost you extra (the IRS is free.) The prices I saw began at $9.99 and go up. I talked to someone trying to do it himself and the site he chose wanted $189. No, there is no need to use a paid service for something the government offers for free. If you're not comfortable applying online, the completed and signed application can be mailed or faxed to the IRS. Or you can apply over the phone. All the details, numbers and addresses, are in the SS4 instructions.