So, you’ve been keeping up on Identity Theft Week here at PTY and all you can think to yourself is “Wow! This is awesome! I wish someone would come along and steal my identity, so that I, too, can join the throng of victims!” I understand. Having your identity stolen is the “new black.” So I’ve developed this handy guide to help you get your identity stolen, and make it easy for identity thieves to do a lot of damage.
(I suppose, if for some reason you don’t want your identity stolen, you could just do the opposite of everything in this post. If that’s the way you want to go.)
Social Security Number: The One Piece They Really Need
The fastest, easiest way to get your identity stolen would be to hand out your Social Security number like candy. If you’re filling out paperwork, or are on the phone, and you’re asked for your social security number, give it out freely! Never question why they might need it, and even if the service or person you’re talking to really needs it at all.
In truth, the only time anyone should need your SSN is for tax purposes, such as employment, or savings accounts that pay taxable interest. But if you can maximize the amount of other times you give out your SSN, then you probably don’t need to do anything else to get your identity stolen!
For bonus points, use your SSN as a username or password for as many web sites as you can!
The Shredder: Your Natural Enemy
Nothing deters your friendly neighborhood ID thief like a paper shredder! If you shred the mail you throw away instead of simply pitching it, then ID thieves can’t get your personal information off of it, now can they? You’d be surprised how little information they really need – so it’s probably best not to shred anything at all. Good, now you’re one bank statement away from ID theft!
Your Mailbox is Your Portal to ID Theft Fun!
Do you know what the nickname for the red flag on a mailbox is? It’s called the “Come Steal Me” flag! Yes, mail your checks and important paperwork out of your driveway mailbox – because those big, ugly blue boxes are near-impossible for ID thieves to get into. And if they can’t get into it, how are they going to get your mail?
Debit Cards – Of Course I Want to Be Liable for the Charges!
Credit cards and debit cards offer different layers of protection for fraudulent charges. If you use a credit card for all of your non-cash purchases (and pay it off every month), then you’re no liable if an ID thief uses your card. But with a debit card, the money instantly goes out of your account (probably even causing you to overdraft!), and won’t be put back until it’s proven that you didn’t make those charges. It’s almost like giving ID thieves a free loan from your checking account!
Checks – Easily Stolen, Forged, and Duplicated!
High-class ID thieves will use the checks you write – either to lift your signature, get your account number, or simply to deposit into their own account (if they can manage it). So memorize this simple phrase for every transaction you make: “Will you take a check?”
- Give out your Social Security number all the time, for any reason. Never question it.
- Don’t shred papers containing personal information before you throw them out.
- Send mail out of your own mailbox, with the “come steal me” flag!
- Use a debit card instead of a credit card, to maximize the damage an ID thief can do.
- Write checks whenever you can.
If you’ve followed these simple steps, congratulations! Your identity has probably already been stolen! Now go check your credit report and make sure!
Consumerist: How Frank Abagnale Protects Himself From Identity Theft
Identity Theft: Stolen Futures (video)