Is Identity Theft Protection a Myth?

Is Identity Theft Protection a Myth? Photo (cc) by B Rosen

It may be just a matter of time before your identity is stolen. At least, that’s the sense one gets after reading Liz Weston’s column this morning.

The personal finance columnist and author says Social Security numbers are each consumer’s Achilles’ heel, and continued data breaches at major corporations are the proof.

Just this week we learned of a major data breach affecting Premera Blue Cross customers.

Weston cited another example at CBS News:

“Health insurer Anthem…stored the Social Security numbers of my family and 80 million other customers without encrypting them. But, Anthem assured us, ‘We have no reason to believe credit card or banking information was compromised, nor is there evidence at this time that medical information such as claims, test results, or diagnostic codes, was targeted or obtained.’

“Oh, good. So the bad guys have our Social Security numbers, the key to virtually every kind of identity theft, but they may not know I have a Retin-A prescription. That’s a relief.”

Social Security numbers are key because they’re used as all-purpose identifiers, even though Weston says they weren’t meant to be and aren’t used as such in other developed countries.

So even if you take every possible preventative measure to avoid becoming a target for identity theft, including freezing your credit, you can still become a victim. There is no way to truly immunize yourself against medical, criminal or tax ID theft.

As Adam Levin, former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, explained at Huffington Post today, you can become a victim of identity theft even after you die:

“When it comes to identity-related crimes, one of the greatest times of vulnerability is immediately after you die. … The recently deceased continue to exist on paper, and this may be the case for some time. Meanwhile, many bankable facts — key among them your Social Security number and personally identifiable information — are just sort of there in the form of “zombie” purchasing power. An identity thief can use that purchasing power to drain your bank accounts, open new credit in your name and perpetrate all sorts of fraud that can impact your family and heirs.”

Have you or anyone you know dealt with identity theft? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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