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This chapter is from the book

You Are Only As Safe As the Places That Have Your Information

You will find that one of my recurring themes is that regardless of how careful you are about protecting your personal information from identity thieves, you are only as safe as the places that hold your personal information. These places include companies with which you do business, governmental agencies, and any club or association to which you belong. It is not unusual for rogue employees to steal the personal information of customers or members and either use it themselves for identity theft or sell the information to professional identity thieves. It is also important to note that small retail businesses have recently become a prime target for identity thieves because identity thieves have found that many of these businesses do not pay sufficient attention to maintaining the privacy and security of the personal data they hold.

So what can you do?

One thing you can do is try to limit as much as possible the personal information, particularly your Social Security number, that you provide to third parties. The Social Security number is a key element in identity theft. Armed with that number, an identity thief could find it a simple matter to steal your identity. Many establishments with which you do business routinely ask for your Social Security number even though they have no legitimate need for it. Recently, I was asked for my Social Security number when I went to my eye doctor. I responded by politely asking if it would be acceptable for me to provide my driver’s license instead, and they were willing to accept that.

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