Out and About Defense
Defending your information doesn't stop when you walk out the front door. How many times when you're at the store, at the doctor's office, or otherwise out and about does someone ask for your private information? Do you provide it? Should you? How can you know?
The defense is simply this: ask. Why do they want to know? What will they do with it? How do they protect it? Ask and depending on the answer, decide what to do. For example:
- When I went to a new dentist, they asked for my social security number. When I asked, they claimed they needed it for insurance purposes, but a quick call to the insurance company confirmed that wasn't the case and I refused. They were able to put a random number instead and everything worked fine: I got service and they got paid.
- Lots of stores have "club cards" or some kind of membership where you theoretically get discounts or they can pull up your purchase history for returns or some such nonsense. Depending on the specifics, I might sign up (leaving everything I can blank — which is usually a lot if not most of it), but sometimes I'll just give them a common phone number that someone else has already set up. Specifically your area code plus one of the following almost always works: 555-1212 (the number to general information) or 867-5309 (the Jenny number).
- Electronic signatures are everywhere, but are you really comfortable giving companies yet another important piece of data to lose? The system isn't going to check what you put in (even if you draw funny or inappropriate pics instead) so it's up to you what to do in this case. If I were of a privacy mind, I might draw the first letter of my signature for myself (so I could tell later it was me who signed it) and then scribble the rest randomly.
I was once asked for my SSN at a video-rental store! Obviously they didn't need it for anything, but it made me wonder how many people provided it just because they were asked.
Fun fact: I quite literally stopped the nurses at the birthing ward to ask them why they wanted a SSN on the admission paperwork while my wife was in active labor in the wheelchair behind me. Due to the impending baby, we agreed to handle the paperwork later (spoiler alert: they didn't need it either).
By being stingy with my data, I have avoided letting people put my information into yet another computer system and be at risk from abuse and hacking. It's not a 100% solution of course, but it costs me little other than some time and confused looks from employees who've never been challenged before. For my effort, my data is harder to find, harder to lose, and harder to exploit.
This section doesn't lend itself well to exercises. Just be careful out there ok?
What you can do is check out the resources page (next in the guide) and make sure to click any remaining orange-colored dots next to the lessons in the guide. This will mark them complete and once all are so-marked, you will receive a course-completion badge in your profile. Congrats for making it through 🙂
Course Guide for: Goodbye Identity Theft
Additional resources for the "Goodbye Identity Theft" course.