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How to Protect Your Identity

Well it’s pretty impossible these days with the majority of us having online accounts with social networking sites, and feeling the need to share lots of personal information online with strangers. We can of course limit the information we share online, such as was highlighted last week with the pitfall of FourSquare which encourages you to share where you are, hence not being at home giving burglars the perfect opportunity.

Offline it is slightly different and we are all meant to be careful with paperwork that could be used to steal our identity. Unfortunately I am a bit lazy and stupid and still put things in the bin that really should be shredded. I must try harder! One big bug bear though that I have is phone calls out of the blue from banks, insurance companies, credit card companies and the like.

Tonight was a perfect example .. the phone goes around 7pm. It’s for me.

“Hello” (in my most polite telephone voice)
“Hello, is that Mrs Naylor”
“Yep” (I don’t like speaking to cold callers in the evening btw)
“Hello, its Gary from HSBC, I was wondering if you have some time to spare?”
“Yep” (well I have now that you have broken me away from doing some homework with Miles)
“Firstly before I let you know why I am ringing would you be able to answer a couple of security questions for me?”
“Yep” (perhaps if you let me know why you are ringing first I can decide whether it’s worth it)
“Ok, I’ll tell you part of the information if you can finish it off … your birthday is on the 26th day of the month, can you tell me the month and the year you were born?”
“I would do if I knew who you were”
“I’m calling from HSBC”
“I don’t know that, that’s just what you are telling me … what’s the next security question?”
“I can’t tell you that until you answer the first security question”
“Can I ask then what you are ringing for then?”
“I can’t tell you until you have answered the security questions”
“I’m not giving my personal information over the phone to someone who I haven’t got a clue who they are… how do I know that you are from the HSBC?”
“I am from HSBC”
“Well it’s easy to say but you could be anyone. I have had a HSBC account for 20 years and have used my card a few times this week, and I don’t keep my birthday a secret .. so you could be anyone”
“I don’t quite understand your concerns, as I am from HSBC, we’ll have to send you the details in the post”
“You’ll have to do that then, I’ll await the post”

Now think about it… have you ever been called by a bank or credit card company who ask you for certain details, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, certain digits from your account number or pin to use as verification. I mean Mr HSBC you rang me, so you tell me the information you have on file and I’ll confirm it perhaps. It wouldn’t take any criminal organisation any time at all to set up a call centre with a non disclosed telephone number to systematically target people calling for different reasons on different occasions steadily collecting all of the details they need to steal your identity.

identity theft

I think people are still too open these days to give out information without even thinking who they are giving it to… everyone needs to be a lot more careful. The guy I spoke to tonight from the HSBC, was probably sat in a big call centre in the HSBC head quarters thinking what a bitch I was. I can’t believe it’s still acceptable these days to ring out of the blue and expect to get full trust from the public and be able to get personal details over the phone, but I bet most people just give whatever information that they are asked for without even thinking about it. I’m probably just getting cynical in my old age as crikey I’ll be 35 on the 26th March … hmm that’s tricky to work out my date of birth now isn’t it!

Image from CC Chapman

2 Comments

  • Simon Barker

    You make a very good point Becky, there’s been times I’ve been called by the bank/credit card company, gone through the security and then thought, how do I know who they are, perhaps I shouldn’t have done that.

    Perhaps there should be a security password or identification that we set up as part of our security with these companies, that they use to identify themselves to us?

    Given the scams that are out there, I’m almost surprised scammers don’t do this more often, especially given the way that organisations seem to “lose” our data.

  • Richard

    Interesting, I never ever give out any information to anyone calling on the ‘phone, you were spot on Becky. However, I would like to know if you got any information by post from HSBC! If a bank ever called me I always ask them which department they represent and then I call them on the number i have, First Direct in my case which is of course part of HSBC.