Recently, Angeline Austin was convicted of identity theft in Alabama and sentenced to 65 months in prison.  Ms. Austin had worked in the Troy Regional Medical Center records office where she stole personal information including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth on more than 800 patients and then sold that information to other identity thieves for as much as $8,000 per person.  The secondary black market for information that can be used for identity theft is large.  This information was used to file phony income tax returns in the names of the victims through which the identity thieves collected 1.6 million dollars in phony refunds while the victims were caught in bureaucratic hell trying to get their legitimate tax refunds.  One of the victims lost his six figure income job working for a defense contractor when the theft of his identity resulted in a loss of his security clearance.


Things are not as bad as you think.  They are worse.  The lesson here is a familiar one.  You are only as safe from identity theft as the weakest place that has your personal information.  Whenever you do business with anyone, you should inquire as to what they do to insure the privacy of your personal information and never give your personal information to any company or agency that does not need it.  I had an eye examination earlier this year where the optometrist requested by Social Security number.  He had no legitimate use for it and I did not provide it.  You should do the same.