Was it excessive exuberance? Was it judgmental deficiency? Was it the thrill of hearing a barnburner by the President of the World? Well, whatever it was, it was a dangerous mistake.
On Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, during a particularly rousing segment of President Clinton's forceful and unabashed dissection of the Republican depiction of Obamacare as a destroyer of Medicare, an enthusiastic Democratic Delegate waved her Medicare card in front of a national news pool camera. The problem is that anyone sharing the moment either online or on television, or researching a replay of that moment, had or will have the opportunity take a long, slow look at a cornucopia of her personal identifying information and be in a position to use it for nefarious purposes.
At the very least, the video offers would-be thieves the opportunity to retrieve her name and her Medicare identification, which also happens to be her Social Security Number. While that may well be enough to begin the identity theft process, they need only go to a variety of other sources to acquire additional personal information to have a more complete picture of the victim.
I can totally understand the emotion of the moment, but that minor burst of unmitigated joy carries with it the possibility of weeks, months, if not years of personal pain and life disruption. But there's a problem that lies deeper than just this moment of bad judgment; in fact, this brief flash of television footage underscores a huge problem for all card-carrying Medicare recipients - that they are essentially sitting targets for identity theft, whether they wave their card in front of the world, or if the card otherwise leaves their possession. Consumer advocates have railed for years against the dangers of using SSNs as an identifier for other purposes, and of the display of SSNs on any card that you must carry with you -- simply because it greatly amplifies consumers' risk for identity theft. The Government Accountability Office recently called for the removal of SSNs from Medicare cards, but until that actually happens, Medicare recipients will be left to fend for themselves on this one.
With all of the information floating around the brick and mortar, as well as the cyber world about us, combined with the hundreds of millions of files that have been improperly accessed since 2005 due to a pandemic of data breaches, there is little doubt that each of us will suffer some form (if not multiple forms) of identity theft during our lifetime.
Therefore, we need to create a paradigm shift in the way we see the crime and our continuing exposure to it. There are three distinct phases: