This post comes from Kali Geldis at partner site Credit.com.
Wednesday night, in the midst of former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, the camera cut away to an audience member holding up what is a familiar sight for the roughly 50 million Americans who participate in Medicare — a Medicare ID card.
While that ID card was a great image of what Clinton was discussing — whether Obamacare would mean cuts in benefits for Medicare participants — that simple act of airing someone’s ID card, which displays one’s Social Security number as an identifier of his or her Medicare status, can expose that person to identity theft.
In fact, the Social Security Administration even says on its website, “The potential for misuse of SSNs (that) could result from the need for Medicare recipients to carry their Medicare cards with them is a valid concern.”
The video of the DNC attendee was aired on multiple stations covering the convention, including, but not limited to, PBS, ABC and MSNBC. The full video of the speech, including the Medicare card moment, is also still up on YouTube. The Medicare card fully displayed the delegate’s name and Social Security number, something that hackers can now use to steal her identity, according to Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911.
“It’s good to be enthusiastic about a candidate and a cause,” Levin says. “It’s bad to wave personal identification cards in front of cameras, unless you are Todd Davis and LifeLock will handle your 15 incidents (or more) of identity theft for free.”
But not all hope is lost. Here’s what Levin advises this person to do immediately to help protect herself. “Now that her information is out there, close monitoring of her credit report, bank accounts and any other financial accounts is the key to discovering fraud and then beginning the process of resolving it,” he says. (Post continues below.)
The first step for people who think they have exposed their Social Security number to the outside world is to place an initial security alert on their credit reports, Levin says. This can be done through any of the three major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Equifax or Experian — and once you call one, you do not have to call the others. This will essentially flag your credit reports so that creditors know to be extremely careful about releasing any other information about you.
An initial alert will stay in your file for 90 days, but that doesn’t mean your work is done. You should be monitoring your credit report and financial accounts to make sure nothing seems out of place. The initial alert entitles you to a copy of your credit report with each of the major credit reporting agencies.
If you spot anything hinky on your credit report — check out these signs that you’ve been compromised to know what “hinky” means — then you should file an identity theft report with a local or federal government agency to document that your identity has been compromised. Then file an extended alert with the credit reporting agencies, which will remain on your credit report for seven years to prohibit identity thieves from lying in wait and then using your identity down the road.
Seem like a lot of work? It is. But it can all be prevented by being careful about how, when and where you share your information. Showing your Social Security number and name on national television can be a costly mistake.
“It is said that cybersecurity is only as effective as its weakest link. Human beings are the weakest link,” Levin says.
More on Credit.com and MSN Money:
- 5 simple things you can do to protect your identity
- How often does your credit report change?
- Why shredding your documents isn’t enough
- Freak cases of identity theft
- ID theft: Are we doomed?
- Is your college kid’s ID safe?