Most people carry their State issued Drivers License with them to show they are valid drivers and to prove they are who they say there are. If you are a driver, this is a requirement in every State. Many States also offer identification cards to non-drivers which can be obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Both are valid forms of identification and important documents to have with you.
A business may swipe a drivers license or identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles in any electronic device for the following purpose: To verify age or the authenticity of the driver’s license or identification card. The bar code on your State issued ID has all the same information as on the front of your card. That includes your full name, address, license number, birth date, and on some licenses, even your Social Security Number. You have a vested interest in keeping most of that information private. If you are privacy conscious, you also will work to not give companies more information than they need for a transaction. There is no reason they would need to keep any info, even just your name, to complete a purchase. Attempts to acquire this information may seem innocuous, but a great deal can be determined about you by looking at your purchasing habits, and by mining your personal information for use in marketing databases.
Some merchants may even make a copy of your Identification ‘for their records’. Hotels are notorious for this. With all of the personal information listed on your Drivers License, this is a huge invasion of privacy and the potential for fraud and misuse is troubling to say the least. Think about how often you are asked to show ID, and how often this information is captured by some method. Verifying your identification is common and important for security purposes, but there are ways to drastically limit the amount of information you provide during this verification mechanism.
The solution is a Passport Card. I travel frequently so I always have my Passport with me. There is no magnetic strip on the back and it is a Federally issued valid form of identification that proves your legal age. I keep the Passport Card in my wallet along with my Drivers License, and use the Passport Card anytime I am asked to verify my age or present ID for a purchase. I cannot remember the last time I presented my Drivers License for these reasons actually.
When a merchant asks to verify your identification, hand them a Passport or Passport Card. They will be unable scan the Passport and may simply manually type in the DOB for their purchase record. Because the ID is not scanned, no other information is collected. If you encounter any resistance at the point of sale, politely remind them that the Passport Card is issued by the United States Federal Government, and is considered Universal Identification in the US. Just because a business may be required to verify your identity, it doesn’t mean their system has to be able to scan it. Note: possessing a stolen or “counterfeit” Passport comes with a mandatory 20 year Federal Prison sentence.
The Passport Card does have one bar code on the back but it just contains the document ID number. Nothing else. Your address is not listed on the Passport Card either, which is a huge win when you do not want to disclose that critical piece information. Presenting a Passport or Passport Card to a merchant usually results in a quick glance at the document, followed by them handing it back to you without any further discussion. You presented a valid form of ID which satisfies their policy or legal requirement to check it, and the transaction is complete. Furthermore, the transaction was accomplished without adding your personal information into “the system”, which would most likely have be used for marketing and profiling purposes in the future.
Passport Cards can be obtained easily from many local government offices and for the reasons discussed here, are well worth carrying with you.