Privacy is one of the fundamental human rights. It always feels like this right is being violated whenever a storekeeper holds a scanner above your driver’s license or ID card. This concern may get you thinking: what exactly do stores see when they scan my ID?
Your ID does contain personal information, and stores can potentially see all of this data when they scan it. However, this concerning process has more advantages. This post will extensively analyze what stores see when they scan your ID and when you should be concerned.
Why Do Some Stores Scan Your ID?
As hinted in the introduction, there are several reasons why a store may want to scan your ID. Mostly, stores do this to prevent fraud, but it can also help avoid selling age-restricted consumer goods like alcohol to minors.
You may think it would be easier to simply check the card physically without holding a scanner over the barcode. That will work most of the time, but not at catching minors trying to purchase alcohol.
Fake IDs are neither rare nor difficult to make. There are hundreds of sites on the internet that will let you print the replica of an identity card or driver’s license for free.
Minors can easily create these fake IDs to get alternate identities that are perfectly eligible to buy liquor. However, the barcode on fake IDs is simply bogus and doesn’t store any meaningful information.
If stores resort to simply checking the date of birth on ID cards, they won’t be fooled by adults buying alcohol but by minors, which is the exact set of people that shouldn’t have access to it.
Also, stores are increasingly requiring customers to provide their IDs for scanning when they return products. Some stores only need to scan ID for returns without a receipt, but most will demand it, even if you have a receipt.
This measure is mainly to prevent return scams. Most states in the United States allow storekeepers to scan your ID whenever you return an item to avoid repeated returns. If you return things too regularly, you should be getting ready for restrictions.
What Do Stores See When They Scan Your ID?
As to what stores can see when they run their scanner over your ID, it’s pretty unfortunate that they can see a lot. They can see information ranging from your name to your date of birth, everything on the ID, and sometimes more.
The most concerning part is that stores can legally store all of this information in a database under the context of “fraud prevention.” While your name and age should be sufficient for any use they may have, it is up to the store to decide if they limit the information to that small set.
You should know that most stores don’t collect every information on your ID card during a scan. Most times, the scanner runs on automated software that pulls out your age, compares it to the minimum age for the item you’re purchasing, and verifies or declines the purchase.
Even if you look old enough, you may still need to provide your ID card for scanning. Some stores have policies that prevent staff from selling alcohol and other age-restricted items without scanning your ID card.
Do Stores Have to Scan Your ID?
In most cases, the decision to scan your ID before selling or approving a return is totally up to the store. While stores don’t have to check your ID, they may also get into legal trouble selling alcohol to a minor.
Since the physical details on an ID are always easy to game, the only way for a store to determine your age is by scanning your ID.
This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Most stores don’t store the information on your ID into any accessible database. The scanner simply pulls out the details, compares them to some predefined constants, and tells if you’re old enough to make the purchase you’re attempting.
Why Do They Scan Your ID When You Return Something?
You may have noticed that most stores ask to scan your ID only when you try to make a return. This is a measure supposedly meant to prevent return fraud and multiple returns.
When a store asks to scan your ID when you return something, they can read and keep all of the information that it holds. This may include your name, date of birth, height, weight, address, amongst other worrying details.
Of course, they don’t need all of this information to keep track of return fraudsters, and most stores don’t collect it anyways. But the fact that they can even keep this legally is concerning.
Generally, it is more privacy-conscious to shop at stores that collect the tiniest information during a return or one that gathers none at all. Apprehending fraudsters is undoubtedly essential, but your privacy is far more critical than that.
Also, you should know that failure to provide an ID for scanning may lead to the attendant declining your return request. It’s not usually up to them, and they don’t have any access to the information the scanner collects anyways.