Fax data security for sensitive information?

Eric_E

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I recently was informed I'd been awarded a $3,000 scholarship from the University of Kansas graduate school, where I'm going to be studying for an M.A. in East Asian Language and Culture this fall.
The graduate school's accountant, who is responsible for the disbursement of these scholarships, requested I send her a copy of my Social Security card. She said I could mail it, fax it, scan it and e-mail it, or hand-deliver it to her office.

I'd like to get it to her as soon as possible, but I'm paranoid about anyone intercepting the information. My SSN is not something I want floating around out there (see my thread about my girlfriend's ongoing battle with fraud if anyone needs more reason to be cautious). Anyway, I think e-mail is probably the least secure method, followed by the fax, then snail mail, and finally, of course, delivering it in person. But I would like to get it to her ASAP while saving myself a 1 and 1/2 hour round trip by car. Is faxing it secure enough, or should I just send it through the postal service? Opinions are appreciated.
 

Mike Lenthol

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Fax is easy to intercept, but it's point to point. Chances of someone intercepting it are about as likely as someone guessing it.

SS #s mean nothing these days anyway, I bet your new school ID # will be the SS # and will be plastered on school ID card and everywhere else.
 

Nathan*W

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A fax connection should theoretically be as secure as a (non-cordless) telephone conversation is. Pretty secure unless you are adept at wiretaps. Unless you are concerned with it sitting on the receiving fax for anyone to view. But even if you hand carry it there, it still might sit on a desk for anyone to view, so it really depends on the security precautions in place on the receiving end.

Mail can be lost, diverted or stolen.
E-mail can be intercepted, misdirected or forwarded.
Faxing can be misdirected or be unsecure on the machine (post reception)
Hand delivery can be mis-routed or left out in the open.

Sometimes you have to trust other people to keep your info safe.
 

Drew Bethel

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Fax should be fine, I've never heard of someone hacking and intercepting a fax line. Afterall, machine using a modem with an inbound/outbound and analogue line.
 

Malcolm R

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Yeah, I don't believe there's any danger in the actual sending by fax. Your only concern would be what happens to the hard copy when it rolls out of the machine.
 

Scott Merryfield

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A more interesting question is why does the school need a copy of your actual Social Security card? Simply providing them with your SS# should be sufficient.

I have never had any institution *ever* ask for a copy of the actual card. This includes college scholarships, mortgage loans/refinances, car loans, opening new accounts for saving, checking, IRA, 401k, etc.
 

SethH

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I see your point here, but a Social Security card doesn't really provide any extra information than the SSN. So it's not like you're giving away any more information.

Eric: do you have your SSN on your checks or driver's license? If so then a fax is the least of your concerns. No matter how hard you try someone who really wants your SSN can get it. Ever wonder about the person who works customer service at your bank or credit card company who's probably making about $25,000-$30,000 per year and is very stressed and has access to your name and number every time you call for something? Point being that I wouldn't worry too much about the fax. Just double and triple check to make sure you're sending it to the correct number.
 

Rob Gardiner

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Eric,

For what it's worth, this is the confidentiality notice that appears on my company's fax cover sheets:

 

Scott Merryfield

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That's true. You will always be vulnerable to employees with access to secured, private information. You are also at risk every time you hand your credit card to a waiter/waitress in a restaurant who disappears for 10 minutes with the card. However, I would still never agree to placing my SS# on items like checks, driver's license, etc. Why open yourself up to anything more than necessary?
 

Mike Lenthol

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Because it's not optional, and yes they do still use SS #s as school IDs pretty much everywhere, if anything it's getting much worse with time and the reason behind it is relational databases. Anyone and everyone is identified by their SS # so it’s easy to do 'wide' searches.
 

David Williams

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Here in the state of Oklahoma, until about 6 months ago the DMV regularly used a person's SS# as their DL# unless requested not to do so by the applicant (when I first got my DL at 16 I had them issue me a separate number). They recently changed the law so that all new and renewal licenses will have the non-SS numbers.

As for checks, it is pretty common for the unthinking and unwary to put their SS# on their checks to save time (since everyone wants to know your DL # which is most likely your SS # here). You really can't be too safe with your personal information in this day and age.
 

SethH

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Here in Virginia that practice changed sometime in the last 5 years. When I went to get my first license the default number was your SSN. When I went at 20 the default was a random number starting with T63-

I go to Virginia Tech. They are in the process of phasing in student ID numbers to replace SSN. The transition is not yet complete. For my first two years here SSN's were posted everywhere freely. Everytime I went to a dining hall a receipt was printed with my SSN (my name wasn't on it at least!). The numbers are still printed, but they are the new numbers. Also, for my first two years most professors posted grades using SSN's.
 

Malcolm R

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I see checks occasionally at the family store that have SS# printed on them. Don't know why people do this, but some do.

I don't know why anyone would have a driver's licence number printed on them either. I don't know most customers well enough to trust that the number printed on their check is their actual DL#, so I'd make them dig out their ID anyway.
 

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