Braille Monitor                                                                    October 2006

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Identity Theft and You

by Jim Babb

From the Editor: Jim Babb is the editor of the NFB of New Mexico newsletter as well as a member of both the affiliate and Albuquerque Chapter boards of directors. He serves on the state rehabilitation council working with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and is president of the Friends of the New Mexico Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Before retiring to New Mexico, Jim was a vocational rehabilitation counselor and then an area manager with the Ohio agency for the blind.

Jim has researched this troubling problem and provides below some very good advice that we should all read carefully and then act on. This is what he says:

 Jim Babb

We have all heard the often cited statistic that more than 70 percent of blind people are unemployed. However, no matter how desperate you are for work, you do not want this job. You will immediately hate it. You don't get paid for it. In fact, it costs you money. The job is undoing the havoc of identity theft.

Last year more than fifty-five million Americans had their personal data compromised through loss or theft of this information from banks, credit card issuers, colleges, health care facilities, government agencies, etc. More than ten million Americans were actual victims of identity theft, which means they were compelled to do this unwanted job.

What is identity theft? There are various levels of ID theft, ranging from a one-time fraudulent use of your checkbook, debit card, credit card, etc., to the much more severe crime of having a crook establish and assume your identity. Blind people may be more vulnerable than their sighted neighbors if they require assistance reading personal data such as Social Security numbers, checking account routing numbers, PIN numbers, etc. You must be careful managing such data. For example, when using ATMs or entering your PIN at a point-of-sale register, shield your hand while you are actually punching in the numbers.

How do you know that you are a victim?

Your bank, hospital, or college may notify you that it has suffered a data breach.

How can you prevent ID theft? You can't completely prevent it because many elements of your personal data are outside your control such as data breaches from large data bases. You can, however, take the following steps:

What should you do if you are a victim?

It may take you months or even years to clear up this mess. Meanwhile you will be subject to much tension and anxiety. The best approach is to take these preventive steps to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

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