Think twice before you give out your driver’s license number.

What a great idea. The IRS and most states, including GA, are now recommending that you use your driver’s license number for tax filing. On one hand, the extra layer of security will help prevent tax identity theft. On the other hand, this may have just created a new identity theft opportunity for hackers and other cyber criminals. Are we solving a problem, or creating a new one?

Your driver’s license contains personally identifiable information

We’re all trained to be careful with our social security cards and numbers, but we don’t necessarily treat identification like driver’s licenses and numbers with the same level of care. Especially now that driver’s license numbers are used for tax return filing, it is more important than ever to safeguard this information like you would your SSN, health records, and other personally identifiable information. That includes reacting quickly in the event that your driver’s license is lost or stolen.

The Journal of Accountancy recently conducted an unscientific poll, asking people what they would do if faced with a lost Social Security card vs. a lost driver’s license. The responses were humorous, but concerning:

  • Social Security Card – freak out, notify credit agencies, freeze credit, purchase id theft protection.
  • Driver’s License – get a new one, ask around to see if anyone found it, wait a week to see if it shows up.

The Journal of Accountancy also asked those same people if they thought that a driver’s license number was personally identifiable information. 72% answered “no” or “not sure.” While a lost Social Security card is considered a major threat, a lost driver’s license is considered an inconvenience. That’s wrong.

Don’t let them get your number(s)

Here are some things you can do to protect your personally identifiable information, known as PII:

  • Treat all PII with extreme care. Only provide this information when absolutely required and through secure systems.
  • Use strong passwords. While “neal123” may be easy to remember, it’s also easy to hack. If you worry about remembering 20+ passwords, there are now secure tools available (like RoboForm or DashLane) to help.
  • Don’t give your PII unless you’re in a secure environment. If someone wants to write your driver’s license number on a sheet of paper, politely decline.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Provide your PII only when you’re comfortable that it will be safe. If you’re not sure, ask. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, don’t provide it.

We’re thinking about you… and your data

The team at Bach, James, Mansour & Company receives training on the care and use of personally identifiable information. We treat all PII with the same care, and store this information in password-protected databases or files. To minimize the chance of files being intercepted during transit, we’re in the process of implementing a more secure file management system. We want full control over file transfer and encryption, providing the utmost security to our clients.

By Neal Bach, CPA and Hermione Graus