Officials: Limit info on personal checks

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Law enforcement and banking officials say the inconvenience of acheck writer verifying his identification is worth not having hisidentify stolen.

Officials are suggesting that citizens consider not having theirSocial Security number and driver’s license number, which in manycases are the same, telephone number or other personal informationprinted on their checks.

“With identify theft, they’re encouraging more people to dothat, to give out as little information as possible,” said LaurieChassion, pre-trial invention coordinator for the DistrictAttorney’s Office.

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Chassion added that people should be careful about who can viewa check as it is being written.

“You don’t need to give your information to someone who doesn’tneed it,” Chassion said.

Shannon Aker, senior vice-president for the Bank of Brookhaven,said he is seeing more people requesting limited information ontheir checks.

“I agree with that. I would tell people that,” Aker said.

Aker said personal information found on checks is limited toname and address.

“Most people don’t put their phone numbers on them anymore,”Aker said.

As another identify theft prevention measure, Chassion addedthat some people are requesting that their driver’s license numberand Social Security number not be the same.

Aker indicated that some people are moving away from checksaltogether. He mentioned the rise in Internet banking for billpaying and the use of debit cards.

“That’s something that’s been a revolutionary thing in the lasteight years,” Aker said of the cards.

For those writing checks, DA officials suggested several tips tohelp prevent identify theft and the possibility of bad checks beingaccepted by merchants.

Those include writing the driver’s license or Social Securitynumber on the check along with the date of birth, race and sex ofthe check writer. Other pertinent information includes the writer’sresident address, the employer’s name and work and home telephonenumbers.

The driver’s license picture should be compared with thewriter’s appearance. Out-of-state checks should also include thewriter’s Social Security number and the state where the license wasissued.

Chassion said a merchant asking for identification is protectionfor a check writer, not an inconvenience. She said anyone who hassuffered the crime of identity theft understands that.

“They know the hassle of getting it all straightened out.” shesaid.

Chassion said customers should be willing to provideidentification when requested by merchants.

“Just have your driver’s license ready when you write a check,”Chassion said.