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Everyone wants your number - Jeffery Whitfield

They give you the hyphenated nine-digit number when you're born and it follows you to your grave. And it's not your birthday - so you can't get even get a gift for it.

But telemarketers, businesses, even the owner of the fruit stand on the corner near your house want your social security number, seemingly for no other harmless reason than to “verify” who you are. There certainly must be a better way for businesses to “discover” if you're telling the truth or not, if you exist, if you're even alive.

The local merchant or the polished corporate icons would say they need the number, they would insist it's something to use solely as a golden key to verify credit history, personal identity and fraud.

Theft? What's that? Corporate tycoons would say theft wouldn't be a problem - even though it seems like more of a growing creature on the level of something that runs chaotically like a runaway plague through news headlines.

As evidence I give you something I've seen too often: Corporation XYZ reports that its databases are hacked into and social security numbers are stolen while credit card numbers mysteriously vanish into someone else's possessions.

Or what of the young merchant who would woo you into casually jotting the number down on a slip of paper so they could then take it from you, while comforting you that it would be carefully guarded under lock and key as it's slid into a small box or a drawer.

Some people might find the guarantees comforting, even revel with the merchant as they are told that passing their personal form of identification number along is kosher.

Imagine yourself passing that number along as you are cajoled by the siren - I mean the salesman - that the information will be used strictly for scrutinizing your personal life, your financial history, your employment history and where you live.

Now imagine what it might be like if you awoke to find a news report explaining how hackers smashed through firewalls to steal thousands of names and numbers. Sound like something you've heard before? Maybe.

But what might be more frightening would be opening your credit card statement and learning that someone else is using your identity to buy expensive toys.

Jeffery Whitfield covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.