All of the following advice is based on the premise that you will only use it to protect your privacy and not to violate rules of ethics or legality.
What Is It?
What I call a privacy alias is a complete profile of your data: name, address, phone number, social security number, birthplace, etc… except all fake. Completely made up. False.
For example, I have real data. But it's nothing that I'll share with you or most other people without specific need (since I subscribe to). The point is that you don't want to give people your real data is you can avoid it. But the problem is sometimes you don't have a choice but to give up information.
When to Use It
A haircut place is a great example of a store that uses the data for your benefit. The theory is that by entering your phone number and name, they can look up your haircut preferences from the last time. Sure, you could just write it down and keep it in your wallet (and that's a great option if you're the kind that will take the trouble to do it and remember to keep it there), but the computer record is pretty convenient.
The key here is that they don't really need YOUR name and number do they? As long as you use the same information each time, you still get the benefit while not giving up your information.
One technique is to give a fake name and number, but I find it simple enough to use my real first name and my fake phone number.
How to Make a Privacy Alias
I'm going to show you the technique I used to create a completely false alias, but a simple way to get started is to let someone else make it for you.
At fakenamegenerator.com, you can get most of the fake data you'd ever need:
2497 Milford Street
Campton, NH 03223
|Mother's Maiden name||Pollak|
|Birthday||September 15, 1945|
|Visa||4916 1711 7909 3400|
|UPS Tracking Number||1Z 236 756 94 1867 824 3|
You're not going to use some of this data like the Visa or the UPS number (those are for people who want to test web ordering systems), but the rest is a good start if you're having trouble thinking up your own data to use. The main issue is that the address, phone number and Social Security Number may belong to some real person.
If you want to be safe, use Fakenamegenerator.com for ideas, but use my technique instead:
Creating Fakes More Carefully
Instead of creating completely fake data that's harder to remember and more likely to match some other real person (which then makes YOU the problem for someone else), I recommend you use part of your real data for your privacy alias.
Because it's too confusing to use a fake first name (unless you're used to going by two different names), I tend to use my real first name. My alias last name can be based on your middle name, a nick-name, a pet's name, a famous person's name or anything else you want.
For the address, I chose a fun word (ex: crater) and decided that would be my street name. Then I just checked some cities on Google maps and tried to find a street with that name. When I found a city that did not have a street with that name, that was the one I chose.
I'm often told that they "will never use my phone number to call me" so why not set them up for some retribution if it turns out they're lying? I tell them my number is 900-900-9000.
If they don't use it as they say, there's no harm. If they do call it, they'll be helped by a very friendly person who will happily charge them by the minute 🙂
You should already have multiple e-mail accounts for this purpose, but you feel obligated to provide an e-mail and you never want any communication from the asker, just make up whatever you want. You're more likely to avoid a real person's e-mail if you use firstname.lastname@example.org. Null is a special work in networking that will never go to a real person's e-mail.
This one's pretty easy. Pick someone who's close to you or someone famous that you admire and use their day and month with your year.
The trick I usually recommend is to use your real SSN with the middle two digits replaced by 0. There are three reasons for this:
- It's hard to remember a completely fake SSN
- If challenged in some way, it's easy to claim innocence and that it was entered wrong or a computer glitch led to the "error".
- You will never end up using someone else's SSN this way.
The one problem with Fakenamegenerator.com is that they don't make any efforts to create SSN's that don't already belong to someone else. They depend on the odds of the SSN not matching your fake name, but this method is safer because any all 0 field in an SSN automatically makes the number invalid in the system.
Fake Challenge Questions
As part of your profile, make sure you have answers for all the common challenge questions you'll see on websites like:
- What's your mother's maiden name?
- Where were you born?
- What was the brand of your first car?
- What was the name of your favorite pet?
Functionally speaking, this information is used to help you access your account if you forget a password. What what if someone who knows you uses it instead? Have you ever known someone who's account got hijacked?
Obama, Sarah Palin, Britney Spears, and others have all data brokers, almost anyone can get it too. It's just never smart to use real information so have some fake stuff prepared.
Even if you use the same fake information everywhere, that's better than using real data. However, even better than that is to use different data everywhere. If you do, be sure to store it securely so you don't forget it..
Once you've taken the trouble to make a fake profile, your goal is to use it forever (or as long as you can) so give it good protection. I store mine with my passwords in an encrypted file so if you don't have software to encrypt yet, maybe it's time you go get some.