Marked by Identity Theft

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©1999
You go to the store, they ask for ID, you give them your social security number or other information. It’s a natural part of American life. There’s nothing we can do about it. Right? WRONG, says Dr. Baehr, and he explains why we need to be more careful.



Recently, an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, about a woman who had an identity theft. Another person had gotten hold of her social security number and credit card number, and was running up big bills. The police got involved and determined that her identity had been stolen; however, the credit card company still wanted to be paid. There­fore, she is now spending an inordinate amount of money in court trying to get out from under this dire financial problem.

Part of the reason that we are having this problem is that people freely give out their social security number. Congress stipulated in the Social Security Act that no one would ever have to divulge their social security number in order to protect Americans from what happened in National Socialist Germany and Communist Russia – national identity cards, which were used to exercise totalitarian control over their citizens. Regrettably, America’s infatuation with credit has overruled our good judgment. So many people give out their social security number without thinking about it.

This situation hit home when I went into a video store to rent some videos for a speech that I was giving. Instead of just running the credit card, they wanted me to fill out a form with my social security number and my credit card number. This is a form that could be easily accessed by any of the youth or others who worked in the store. With these two numbers, they could run up a lot of bills.

When I talked to the owner about this, I asked him if he was bonded to protect the customer. He said every video store requests this information, although I have never encountered this before. If every video store does request these two pieces of information, or if any store does, then there must be some protection for the customer.

Losing a video that costs a pittance is nothing compared to having thousands of dol­lars of charges run up against your account.

Perhaps, we should start thinking about the common sense of not turning our social security number into a national identity card, or require insurance and other protection after the fact, which is so needed in our consumer-oriented society.

Perhaps if identity theft is as big a problem as the Los Angeles Times says it is, people will think twice before giving out their social security number.

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