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Identity Theft

Today I was delivered a piece of paper by the folks that service my student loans (interest is tax deductible, or something like that). It came on a little postcard with a perforated side that I had to open to get at the inside. The inside, like most 1099s or other tax forms, listed my name, some dollar amount, and the key bit of information: my social security number.

Unfortunately, I was also delivered someone else's tax postcard. I didn't notice that it wasn't addressed to me until I'd opened it. After noticing, I gave it back to the mailman. The same thing happened last year (re: a 1099 for ad sales on one of my sites). This year, however, I'd just finished reading "The Art of the Steal" by Frank Abagnale (the Catch Me If You Can guy).

Here's a list that Frank provides to test your "Identity Theft IQ":

  • You receive several offers of pre-approved credit every week (5 points). You don't shred them before putting them in the trash (another 5 points).
  • You carry your social security card in your wallet (10 points).
  • You don't have a PO box or a locked, secure mailbox.
  • You drop off your outgoing mail at an open, unlocked box or basket (10 points).
  • You carry your military ID in your wallet (10 points)
  • You don't shred or tear banking and credit information before throwing it away (10 points).
  • You provide your SSN whenever asked (10 points). You provide it orally without seeing who might be listening (another 5 points).
  • You're required to use your SSN as an employee or student ID number (5 points).
  • Your SSN is printed on an employee badge that you wear (10 points).
  • Your SSN is on your driver's license or personal checks (20 points).
  • You are listed in a Who's Who guide (5 points).
  • You carry your insurance card in your wallet and it contains your SSN (20 points).
  • You haven't ordered a copy of your credit report for at least 2 years (10 points).
  • You don't believe that people root around in your trash looking for credit or financial information (10 points).

For what it's worth, I score about a 15-25 on the list. If you're over 100, you're at high risk. 50-100 presents mild risk, and <50 is a "good" identity theft IQ. My question: how high is your score, or rather many of those become moot, when a mailman hand delivers your social security number, loan numbers, name, address, etc. to someone else?

"Geeks" are probably some of least likely groups of people to be targetted. Geeks tend to be a bit more paranoid: firewalls, shredders, etc. are commonly used. The wired and unwired world presents some of the same security risks, and file shredders exist in both worlds as well. Geeks are likely to use 'em. Yet geeks also do a lot of stuff "in the public eye." My phone number is of course listed in a "whois" on any of my domains. Regardless, we're a pretty paranoid bunch.

It's much easier to steal the identity of someone who might not know any better - one who might not be so keen on keeping their information under wraps. Grandmothers, to name one class of people who may not be particularly paranoid, are routinely the targets of scams. Grandmas don't know how many results Google returns for "stopping identity fraud." They are more trustworthy.

However, we're all pretty vulnerable when the mailman drops our names and SSNs off at random people's houses. This post has served no real point other than to remind myself - and perhaps you - to shred your documents, to not carry your SSN in your wallet, and things like that. How do you score before taking this quiz, and how will you score afterwards? Post your results (anonymously if you wish) in the comments.

5 Responses to "Identity Theft"

  1. I score about 25-30 on the quiz. Interesting stuff.

  2. I score a 5. I would score higher as I don't shred stuff, but I don't throw it away either. As of about seven months ago I keep everything sitting in a box in my closet awaiting for me to actually go out and buy a shredder...

    Speaking about shredders... Can anybody recommend one that crosscuts, does stables, and is less than $150?

  3. I scored very well on the "Identity Theft Quiz from March, but today that world almost came crashing down on me: I got a statement...

  4. You could have a low score on that quiz and still be a victim of identity theft. The methods used by

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    Identity theft is not about who you are, it's about something you never would have imagined, has been going on for twenty years that we are aware of right under our noses.

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  5. It seems that leggo is a made up word and does nothing for me on the search engines, so I must leggo of that word, that domain for something like which I hope will turn out better for me, site is'nt ready yet.