POSTED: Monday, October 29, 2012 - 9:25pm
UPDATED: Monday, October 29, 2012 - 9:29pm
If you are one of those people who carry their whole life in their wallet, it is the ultimate fear.
My wife Karen, like many others every day, had her wallet stolen, while shopping.
After your first deep sigh, you begin the task of closing accounts, getting new cards, and a new driver’s license.
But what about your Social Security card?
“You should never carry your Social Security card in your wallet,” says Social Security District Manager Leo Rosser. “They steal those numbers and they go down to…it’s a ring. They’re not justlooking for Roger Gray, they stole a whole pack of numbers somewhere.”
But, Visa can be replaced with a phone call. Why is the government so reluctant to replace a social security card?
“For one thing,” Rosser said, “it’s very problematic if we issue a new Social Security number because everything since you began working is under one number. Plus, not so much social security, but all your credit, all the things you apply for then a new card becomes very problematic.”
So what you have to do is call the three credit rating agencies, and put a credit freeze on your account.
That means the thief can’t open a new credit line with your SS number. But you can’t either, until you get it lifted.
But that’s not the only risk. Now your credit card is a transmitter.
It’s called RFI and it is a little chip that allows you to simply have the card in the proximity of a receiver for it to work, like an electronic door key.
If you had an RFI id chip in a credit card in your back pocket and somebody had a scanner, they could just kind of wave it at your rear end.
That’s right, if the receiver can read it, so can the bad guys.
If you have one, it’s going to have your credit card number, name and address, all those little security numbers on the back of your card.
And the technology isn’t expensive.
At the O’Reilly conference in March, they showed off about an $80 scanner off Ebay, and were able to scan any RFI chip that was around.
Your passport is the same, and it can be read as well.
And then there’s the technique known as skimming. Often it happens in restaurants. When you pay your bill, the employee will slide your credit card for the restaurant…and then once for himself.
An elaborate skimmer can even use very deceptive equipment at an ATM to steal your information.
So, how big a problem is identity theft?
“I was sitting at a table with some of my business associates for a luncheon,” says Don Esch, who is actually in the credit card business, “ and the waitress came and got all of our credit cards. And when she came back, she brought everybody’s credit card back but mine. I found out later that her boyfriend was waiting at the front door and she just gave it to him. Well, I knew what to do. I called my bank, it was a debit card; and I asked where has it been? It had been to like 10 stores in 30 minutes. And the last store he went to was a tire and wheel shop, and the owner asked for his pin number. He didn’t know his pin number, my pin number. And so the merchant suspected it was fraud, so he told the guy to come back the next morning and he’d have everything ready. And I showed up about half an hour later. So I asked if he would mind if I set up a sting operation with the Longview Police, and he said no, I’d like to catch these guys. He came back the next day on time, and we waited until his car was up on the jacks and they pulled the wheels off before we arrested him so he couldn’t get away. He had no way to run.’
It’s the fastest growing crime in the United States. And Texas ranks fifth. We had 24,000 cases in 2011 in the State of Texas. The demographic that’s most targeted is those 20-29.
How do we protect ourselves?
The more technology you introduce, the higher risk you introduce. There’s going to be somebody who is going to figure out how to hack into it and steal your information.
When it comes to identity theft, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There’s no guarantee it’s not going to happen to you. But you can take some preventative measures ahead of time to help prevent you becoming a victim.