Special Report: Scanner Secrets
With all the scams out there today, people have gotten used to protecting their identity at all costs.
However, there may be one more way you haven't thought about....
Blue lights in your rearview mirror. A police officer walking up to your window. You likely know that feeling of dread. But the dread of a ticket may be the least of your worries. Anytime someone is pulled over, there is a risk of something far more costly. Your identity. A simple traffic stop can end up costing you just that.
You might be surprised to learn there is nothing stopping a police officer or 911 dispatcher from rattling off your social security number over a police scanner.
"It's still the primary means of verifying identification and for us to check a wanted status on people," says Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek.
"And yes, I have heard socials float over the air before and I've thought wow, that's really bad. Anybody out there listening is gonna get your name and your social. May not get your address, but that's two very important keys of information," says Luke Pettit with Rodd electronics.
Pettit says anyone can walk in the doors and walk out with a scanner.
"They're easy to buy, a little bit more difficult to program now."
And a buyer's motive can range from innocent to downright criminal.
"You have people who just like to listen and hear what's going on and then people who want to use it for very bad things."
They usually range from $300 to $600 dollars, however, many can pick up a scanner feed in the palm of their hand.
"IPods, IPhones, and android, there is a scanner app that you can actually download to your phone," says Pettit.
Many are free or just a few bucks--much cheaper than an actual scanner, but just as effective at getting your information. But Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek says it helps officers do their job more efficiently.
"That's so we don't get John Jones and there might be 20 of them or 200 or 2,000 or whatever. This specifically identifies someone. But quite honestly, if you don't have an investigatory stop by police, it's probably never going to be an issue," says Chief Cheek.
Of course, if you do get pulled over, you can still protect your identity by not putting your social on your driver's license--something that many say still happens here in Albany.
"At one point in time, that's how the state did it. And then they gradually changed over, over time," adds Cheek.
Fox 31 did not find Dougherty or Lee County scanner feeds when we tried downloading a free scanner app, and even a Dougherty County officer told us he can't find one either. Police officers tell us there's really no other way to protect yourself other than simply not getting in trouble with the law, period. Don't give them any reason to suspect you, and you'll be smooth sailing.