Is Your VA ID Card a Security Risk?

by Freddy Groves

 

If you have an older ID card issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs,

your Social Security number could be at risk for theft.

 

If your card is pre-2004, your date of birth and Social Security numbers

are right on the front of the card.

 

Since 2011, the VA hasn’t issued ID cards with those two numbers, but that

hasn’t made the information much safer. Here’s why: The information on the

barcode on your card can be read by apps easily available online. “App”

stands for application, a mini-program that gets installed in a cellphone,

like software in a computer. With a phone app scanner held near the card,

the Social Security number will pop up.

 

The VA has known about this since at least 2011, when it issued an online

alert. (Were you notified of the risks of the card?) A message on the

VA website says, “Some bar code readers, including those available as

applications on cellphones, can scan the bar code on the front of the card

and reveal the veteran’s Social Security number.”

 

When I looked for phone apps that would read an ID card barcode, I didn’t

have to go far. I found them everywhere, including brand-name phone app

sites. One scanner works up to 20 inches away.

 

New VA ID cards will be coming out in 2014. Since it’s the squeaky wheel

that gets the oil, call your local medical center and inquire about

getting one of the new cards as soon as they come out.

 

Your best bet until then: Treat your VA ID card like your Social Security

card and leave it at home, not in your wallet, unless you’re going for an

appointment or need it for some reason.

 

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to

columnreply2@gmail.com.

 

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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