To protect yourself from identity theft while you’re out at bars celebrating the holidays or shopping for gifts, be wary of your driver’s license. It may not seem threatening to have your ID checked at the liquor store or even by a clerk at the mall, but do you know where that information is going if your license is scanned electronically? Bars and liquor stores typically use electronic ID scanners, but now retailers have begun incorporating them into their store policies increasing the risk for identity theft.
Electronic scanners have become increasingly popular for businesses who sell or serve liquor, because it ensures legitimate age verification. Electronic scanners pick the information up from a magnetic strip found on driver’s licenses that contains personal details such as name, birth date, address, height, weight, eye color and Social Security Number. What’s worrisome is that this information can be stored for a varying amount of time, and consumers are often completely unaware of what happens to their scanned licenses.
According to Pacific Standard magazine, the typical practice is that, if stored, licenses only stay in a business’s system for about a month, only to ensure that every patron’s age was verified. Sometimes the information is not stored at all, but if it is and even if the storage time is short, it can still create vulnerabilities for anyone whose information was scanned. And what’s even more problematic about these scanners is that anyone can buy them or download an app that serves the same function.
Elisabeth Hall of New Jersey practiced caution with her driver’s license when she had a routine visit to a doctor’s office, NJ.com reported. According to Hall, the office manager asked to make a copy of her license but she refused to let it happen, for fear of identity theft.
“They have a right to view it to be sure the picture matches the presenter, but banks and doctors regularly insist on making a ‘Xerox’ copy,” her husband, Kenneth Hall, said in an interview.
A few states have banned the storage of this sensitive information but some, like New Jersey, have yet to impose any legislation on the matter. Florida law mandates that while driving records are technically public, no one can request personal information such as birth date, SSN or emergency contacts, but there are exemptions to this law. The state allows health care agencies, licensed private investigators, police officers, employers and private businesses access to this information, but only with expressed consent. This is where the lines of legality get blurry when it comes to these ID scanners, because while you may be consenting to age verification, the business is not technically fulfilling the guidelines of obtaining the other bits of information from your driver’s license.
Unfortunately, what this means for consumers is that they are left with the responsibility to find out what happens with the information businesses scan from their driver’s license, and that takes a lot of time and research, and not every company is willing to divulge the details of their practices. With some heavy reporting, NJ.com was able to find out that CVS Pharmacy will scan your ID for pseudoephedrine products but will not store any of the information, while RiteAid scans and keeps a database of scanned driver’s licenses. Some retailers, such as Target and Victoria’s Secret, have included mandatory ID scans into their return policy to keep a record of people who abuse the system by purchasing items, using them for a short period of time then returning them.
Consumers should be aware of their rights and trust their gut in these situations, said Adam Levin, author of Swiped: What Identity Thieves Do And How to Stop Them in an interview with NJ.com. If you feel like the person, business or organization asking to scan/copy your driver’s license doesn’t really need it or can be trusted with the information, don’t let them have it.
It’s important to be selective when giving out your driver’s license, especially with the upcoming holidays. This can help reduce vulnerabilities to ID theft . For additional protection, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. With that information, you’ll know whether you have to obtain a credit freeze or pursue damages related to your compromised identity.