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Asking for Identity Theft

Remember when you got to see what’s in my wallet? One thing you did not see is my Social Security Card. That’s because putting your SS card in your wallet is just asking for trouble. If someone steals your wallet they now have your name, address, DOB, and SS card. Huge risk of identity theft there.

So you don’t carry it, right?

Well, if you’re a patron at my library apparently you do. In my unofficial poll (i.e. I notice it because it’s just so blatant), about 10% of the people who give me their library cards have their SS card easily visible.

Wow. I don’t even know what to say to them. I don’t want to be officious. I don’t want to be nosy. But I also don’t want them to become victims of identity theft.

So far I haven’t figured out a delicate way of broaching the subject. My readers, I bid you remove the card from your wallet if you happen to have it in there. And I ask you—what would you think if your librarian gave you a tip on identity protection? Too much? helpful? depends on the situation?


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine L February 8, 2008 at 4:47 am

Mrs Micah – I think it’s a really useful tip to give to library visitors.

Do they need the cards for anything, or does remembering the number suffice? I never used my national insurance card since I got it – it’s better just to remember the number.

plonkee February 8, 2008 at 7:22 am

Funnily enough I keep both my Social Security card and my National Insurance card in the same wallet (I once worked in the States so I have both). Fortunately, it’s not the wallet that I actually use, it’s just where they live at home.

Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife February 8, 2008 at 7:53 am

I bet it’s mostly the older folks isn’t it? If only they taught this stuff in school…I myself wouldn’t mind if a librarian said, “you might want to keep your SS card at home…there is just so much identity theft these days.”…and leave it at that…at least it’ll get the person thinking about it.

Bellen February 8, 2008 at 8:15 am

Our son lost his wallet a couple of months ago – driver’s license and SS card included. To replace his license he needed his SS card. To replace his SS card required a government issued ID (license). It took several hours, many forms identifying papers, lots of pleading and a very understanding SS representative, but he got it done.
Just another reason NOT to have SS card in your wallet.

Would your library allow a handout on ways to prevent ID theft? Maybe you could type something up and ask.

Caro February 8, 2008 at 9:06 am

I would go with what Bellen said with the handout. If you single out the one thing, a person will get defensive, but if you pretend not to notice the card itself, and just say, “oh hey, we just put together this list of helpful hints about identity theft, including things like the myth of not signing your credit card and not carrying your SS card.” Then the person will hear it, pretend that “of course they don’t do it” but then will secretly go right home and take the card out.

Just a thought from a fellow librarian who has never actually worked in the library, but who has heard all sorts of stories about the ornery nature of patrons. :)

Funny about Money February 8, 2008 at 9:12 am

Wow! That IS scary.

People think it’s a national ID card, even though by law it is not to be used that way. They probably think they’re required to carry it around.

For a while, the State of Arizona tried to persuade everyone to put their Social Security number on their driver’s license. You had to KNOW you did not have to do so to turn this opportunity down.

When clerks in doctors’ offices ask me for my Social Security number, I play dumb and claim I can’t remember it. Faced with this ploy, one such worthy demanded to see my driver’s license, intending to copy the number off that. She was flabbergasted to find no SS number on my license — she thought it was required!

For a long time, too, the Great Desert University used students’ SS numbers as matriculation numbers and put employees’ SS numbers on the faculty/staff ID card that you indeed ARE required to have with you when you go onto the campus. Here, too, you had to know you could ask for a different number — they wouldn’t tell you and they really didn’t want people to know it.

Same with your health insurance card.

Because Arizona has the highest rate of identity theft in the nation, GDU finally wised up and quit issuing ID and health insurance cards with people’s SS numbers on them. A dollar late and a day short, IMHO.

Anitra February 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

I hate to admit it, but I carry my SS card with me. It’s a habit left-over from the days when I used to fill out a lot of job applications, which always ask (in this case, correctly) for SS number & proof of identity. I got in this habit when my only IDs were out-of-state license and school IDs, so I’d need the SS card to be my “second” ID.

Nowadays, I usually remember to bring my passport for proof of ID, so I should really take the SS card out. On the upside, it’s buried between a whole bunch of business cards and health insurance cards… maybe I should clean out my wallet in general…

mrsmicah February 8, 2008 at 9:43 am

On th upside, Anitra, people may not see it and target you. But on the downside, if they steal the wallet for other reasons, they’ll get that too.

SJean February 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

I had it in there because i needed it for my new job and to get my drivers license. But it was long past time to put it back in its secure location, thanks!

fathersez February 8, 2008 at 10:58 am

In our country, we have the National Registration Cards, which we must get once we turn 12.

And the law is that we must carry it around all the time.

I suppose my country’s leaders have not yet put any thoughts on this yet. They sure will if one of their ID’s get stolen.

Hunter Nuttall February 8, 2008 at 11:26 am

I agree–it’s asking for it. But some people are forced to ask for it. It wasn’t that many years ago that Virginia used your SSN as your drivers license number. They finally stopped when enough people complained.

Laura February 8, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I wouldn’t be offend if my libraian gave me some tip. Please help me protect my identity and money! :)

In Debt February 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

One thing you might consider is putting up a little sign or something on the front desk warning people about the dangers of carrying their SS card with them. Then, if you happen to notice one, you can just point to the sign and say, “Oh, did you know…”

Seems to me like that would be more likely to be accepted as you doing your civic duty than if you just did it without the sign.

Becky@FamilyandFinances February 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I think women handle unsolicited advice a little better than men in general. I definitely wouldn’t mind if a librarian said that to me, but some people can be quite peevish.
My husband used to carry his SS card in his wallet before we were married. As soon as I was able to talk him into it, I moved it to our safe deposit box with mine!

jodie February 8, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Completely agree with Caro. If a circ desk worker said that to me when I was checking out a book, I would feel like s/he were “snooping” to see what’s in my wallet, even if that wasn’t the intention at all (and it usually isn’t I’m sure). And yes, with library patrons, you just never know what kind of disposition they will have – they may react kindly to your advice or have a conniption fit and complain to your director. I love the idea of handouts on identity theft, though – I think that’s completely appropriate for a public library setting.

I haven’t carried my SS card in years, and thankfully my state lets you opt-out of showing your SSN on your driver’s license. Even at 15 (when I got my permit) I knew that was a bad idea!

udandi February 8, 2008 at 10:22 pm

as a fellow librarian, I err on the side of doing what the customer seems to want – you know read their mind while minding my own business all the while their kids run wild climbing over the desk playing with the desk, phone and scanner ;)

So I’d probably overlook their SS card and hope they don’t fall victim to ID theft (and that their kid doesn’t fall off the desk)!

mrsmicah February 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Lol, udani, I hear you on that!!

cybele February 10, 2008 at 10:29 am

Hello, Mrsmicah. It would be a great gift if you could tell people about their SS card/other identity card when you glimpse it…what about saying something along the lines of… “I’m terribly sorry and hope you won’t think I’m intrusive, but when you gave me your library card just now, I think I caught a glimpse of your Social Security registration card. I just read an article about how it might be dangerous to carry that around in case your purse or wallet is stolen. Identity theft, and all that… so you might want to store it somewhere safe. I did that with mine….” No need to tell them that you wrote the tip (and a good one) on not carrying the card around. But I’m sure you’ve already worked this out by now…i’m coming in late in the dialogue.

Jessica February 10, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Speaking of SSNs used improperly, I really wish the Department of Education wouldn’t use them as account numbers for student loans.

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