Friday, September 07, 2007

Identity Theft and You

I recently was forwarded an email about Google's "scary" (for some) feature of reverse phone searching. You can read more about the email at Snopes.com.

Anyway, I was bothered enough by the false sense of security a FUD email like this provides for those who aren't as wise to today's Internet issues that I was forced to write the following response for my family to read as a counterpoint.

I receive many forwarded emails, but I award few with more than a passing glance. This one is so misguided though, I felt it deserved a response at least to those I know and care about.

Phone numbers and addresses aren't private information and shouldn't be or they betray the very nature of what they are, location devices. Reverse searching for a person or address based on a phone number has been available for a very long time on many websites, the most well known, for me at least, being http://anywho.com.

The advice the original email provided will lead many who read it into a false sense of security while making things harder only for legitimate people looking to contact them. Removing yourself from Google's listing makes it not only harder for the "bad" people to find you but also your friends, family, and business associates. Someone looking to steal your identity or find out information about you has many resources beyond Google in this era of the Information Age.

If you are truly looking to protect yourself from identity theft there are more effective ways:


  1. Create a Google Search Alert for your social security number and/or credit card numbers. This will notify you via email if Google finds one of these numbers on the Internet. That way, if one of these important numbers have been stolen and appears online, you'll be one of the first to know.

  2. Check your credit report annually for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Review it to make sure no one has stolen your identity

    • NOTE: Beware of freecreditreport.com. It is a well-advertised scam.

  3. Place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report. Its an extreme measure, but it then allows only you can get credit in your name using a private PIN.

  4. NEVER use a debit card or personal checks. They are linked directly to your rightfully earned money with no safeguard and provide you no recourse if someone fraudulently takes money from your bank account. A credit card provides many protections a debit card does not.

  5. Ask your credit card company if they provide single-use credit card numbers. Many, such as Discover, provide an online utility to generate a new credit card number to use for each of your online purchases. This will protect you because if that single-use number is stolen it is worthless.


Find out even more ways to protect yourself: http://www.google.com/search?q=protect+identity+theft.

Now I, Brian Jackson, personally wrote every word of this email and I hope THIS is what you pass on to friends and family!