Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft. In the hands of an identity thief, your name and Social Security number can be used to steal your identity and your assets as well as make major purchases and run up debt in your name. It is for this reason that the cardinal rule for protecting yourself from identity theft is to maintain the security and privacy of your Social Security number. This is why states no longer use your Social Security number as the number on your driver’s license. Recently, however it came to light that some health care systems, including the Phoenix VA Health Care System puts the patient’s Social Security number on the inside of his or her identifying wristband at the hospital. The stupidity of this policy is beyond belief. Not only is this number easily accessible by many people who have no need for this information, but when the wristband is discarded when the patient leaves the facility, it is merely put into the trash where it becomes a treasure for an enterprising dupmster diving identity thief.
If you go into a facility that attempts to use your Social Security number as an identifying number, ask to provide a different number. I have used this strategy with no problem at various healthcare providers. In the specific instance of this type of wristband, make sure that no one examines the part of the wristband with your Social Security number, take it with you when you leave the facility and shred it at home.