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Security Response

Who Knows Me?

Created: 18 May 2007 07:00:00 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:49:25 GMT
Ron Bowes's picture
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These days, awareness about identity theftis increasing. More and more people understand that they aren'tsupposed to give out personal information unless they know who they'retalking to. But no matter how much you protect yourself, you still haveto rely on others to do the same. That leads to an important question:who knows who I am?

My first thought is my family. If somebody called my mom and askedquestions about me, would she answer? What about my dad, or mygrandparents? While I may know enough to protect my own personalinformation, they may not be aware. This is even more likely if theperson digging up information pretends to be a friend or employer, orif my family thinks that I'm somehow threatened ("We need your son'ssocial security number immediately, or he's going to lose his job").

Speaking of employers, how many job applications have you filledout? And how many required your social security number? Personally, Ican think of a dozen employers in a wide range of fields who haveaccess to my name, social security number, and other tidbits ofpersonal information. Sure, I have reasonable trust in a corporatehuman resources office, but what about that job at the corner store?When I left there, did they destroy my information, or is it still inthat box in the corner of the owner's office?

It never ceases to amaze me how much information flows through themedical world without any authorization. Just recently I was at adoctor's office, and the man in front of me needed his medical chartsfrom another office. So the receptionist looked up the number in thephone book, and called them. She told them the office she was callingfrom, the patient's name, and her fax number. Within a couple minutes,with no verification whatsoever, she had the patient's charts,including some medical history, x-rays, and ultrasound images. Seeingthat type of request in a medical office isn't rare, either. It happensevery day. To an identity thief or a social engineer, a medical chartis a goldmine of information.

These are only a few examples of where, despite my best defenses, myinformation can leak out. How can I prevent it? Besides the usualtechnique of providing as little information is necessary, there isn'tmuch I can do, except hope that my information stays secret.