When people spend time at hotels, restaurants and bars, they’re usually traveling, relaxing or passing time with friends – protecting their identity is likely the last thing on their mind. However, behind the counter at locations like these is a piece of technology that could put consumers’ identities at risk without them ever knowing: the electronic ID scanner.
Most businesses have legitimate reasons to use these devices, since digitizing their patrons’ driver’s licenses makes it easier to verify their identity and prevent fraud. Hotels use them to make sure the right people show up for check-in, bars and restaurants scan licenses to thwart fake IDs and retailers use ID scanners to confirm identities when making returns. But, behind these noble uses lies a considerable risk to the consumer.
A valuable prize for identity thieves
Like any digital file, scanned IDs are vulnerable to cyberattacks. They may be stolen from the business itself, or intercepted during transmission to a third-party provider that assists with verification. If stolen, this method of fraud prevention can backfire, leaving consumers vulnerable to scams, credit fraud and identity theft. One of the reasons they pose such a significant risk is simply the value a drivers’ license presents to a fraudster. The most universal form of ID, licenses include a person’s identifying information, address, date of birth and even a photo. Armed with this data, cybercriminals could put together scams targeted toward individuals, ID thieves could open new accounts in their victims’ name or even create additional fake, physical IDs based on the information found on a single legitimate license.
Despite these security concerns, businesses often have to store ID scans for at least a few weeks, whether to completely verify a person’s identity or – as is the case with bars and clubs – to prove the scans actually take place, ABC News reported. In other cases, locations might only store the files for a few days, or even not at all, but since ID theft could happen in an instant, every scan represents a risk.
What you can do
To protect their identity, some consumers are limiting when they’re willing to hand over their IDs. “It’s safer for me to eat (the money for the returned item) than to know they have my info in this database,” one woman told ABC News after being asked to provide her driver’s license to make a return. The news outlet also suggested asking companies about their ID scanning policies before doing business. If possible, consumers should request an alternate form of ID verification. If not, shoppers may choose to take their business elsewhere.
However, more companies are relying on this technology now than ever, according to New York City Hospitality Industry counselor Rob Bookman. “They’re a necessary tool,” he told ABC News. “We really can’t live without them.”
So what options do you have when there’s no way around an ID scan? One smart strategy is to sign up for a credit monitoring service, like Identity Guard, that is equipped to keep an eye on your credit files when you can’t, alerting you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. With alerts like these, you’d have a chance to freeze cybercriminals out of your accounts and reclaim lost funds.