Your Identity Is Getting Harder to Keep to Yourself

As if the world weren’t scary enough from the perspective of maintaining personal privacy and keeping our confidential information from prying eyes, we now have a new tool being developed which will make it much easier to gather our pieces of information discretely parceled out across the internet into one revealing package. That means that identity theft won’t require any messy dumpster diving or misrouting of mail, it will all be accomplished neatly and simply from the keyboard.

According to a news article on C-Net News, South African security researcher Roelof Temmingh has created a tool dubbed “Evolution” that associates data found in multiple search engines and social-networking Web sites such as and LinkedIn. It also uses other sites’ tools to find information behind Internet Protocol addresses, Domain Name System entries, domain registration and more. As a result, a search for a person will associate the individual with results found across the Net.

The idea is that data found in one place can bring up results elsewhere. For example, an email address may bring up a domain name, which in the next search may bring up a physical address. The searches could also connect work email addresses with home phone numbers, and bring up information on individuals’ alliances with people or organizations.

I don’t know about you, but I find this very scary. Especially because I recently became another statistic in the growing number of victims of identity theft. I received a call from a Detective from Milwaukee, Wisconsin concerning a case of e-commerce credit card fraud. The short story is that my personal contact information, including many of my credit card numbers, were obtained by the Detective when he issued a subpoena on a Google email account linked to the attempted fraud. My name was used to register the account, and it contained a substantial amount of my personal information.

I only use 2 credit cards for e-commerce transactions: 1 for business and 1 for personal. I never use them for any other reason. That’s a security measure. Oddly, neither of those credit card numbers was contained in the information found. Instead, it contained credit card information on very active accounts.

Fortunately, I check my statements every month in detail, and it does not appear anything snuck through. It seems to have been caught right away. A quick fax and letter to Google has shut down the phony email account. And the one card which I know was “tested” was cancelled by me immediately. Time will tell the rest. But it taught me something.

I am extremely cautious because I’ve known victims of identity theft, and what they’ve gone through to restore their credit history. I shred mostly everything. My bill payment checks don’t sit in the mailbox waiting to be picked up — I drop them at the post office. I keep every single credit card receipt and match it up against every charge on every bill. I immediately call and question anything I can’t match up. My bank statement is reconciled every month within days of its arrival. I have eliminated all department store credit cards except for the very few I use regularly. I am on the opt out list for pre-approved credit cards. I refuse to respond to requests to update information from services like LinkedIn . I even use passwords that are “real” instead of my dog’s name.

What more can a reasonable person do, short of hunkering down in a concrete bunker? Ok, before you respond, “pay with cash” remember I said “reasonable”!! And let me suggest that if you don’t already take most of the precautionary steps I’ve indicated, you’ve taking needless risks. I’m still amazed when I encounter perfectly intelligent people who haven’t reconciled a bank statement ever.


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