Identity theft

July 24, 2011

Identity theft has become a huge problem. And banks and credit card companies set up security measures to help prevent identity theft.

In order to access our online banking accounts, we have to have secure passwords that contain letters and numbers. Sometimes, we have to ensure that our passwords contain special characters.

But that’s not all.

We also have to have at least one secret question and answer that only we know. And we have to remember exactly how we typed that secret answer into the box. Most of the time, we need to have more than one secret set of questions and answers.

But that’s not all.

We have to change our passwords on a regular basis. Often, the format for the different accounts is different. So we can’t even have passwords that are similar.

We end up with a dozen different passwords and about a dozen different sets of questions and answers. It is not possible for the average human brain to hold that many different passwords, questions, and answers. When we forget, we get locked out of our own accounts.

I have had to phone my one bank three times because I locked myself out of my online account. I kept forgetting what format I used when I entered the secret answer. After the third time, I gave up. I have my passwords and usernames for my various accounts in a folder on my computer, secured by yet another password. If I ever forget how to access that folder, I’m in trouble!

It seems to me that if someone knows how, they can access our accounts regardless of the number of secret questions and answers we have. Regardless of how many special characters and mix of numbers and letters we have. All of this security has resulted in only one thing: the very person who should have access to the account can’t get into it unless he writes down the information he needs.

Which defeats the very purpose for having the complicated passwords and secret questions and answers!

I ponder this situation every time I open yet another unsolicited mail from a lending institution. A piece of mail that has my full name and address on it. One that identifies me as being a “valued client” of that lending institution. In order to protect myself from possible identity theft, I have to ensure that letter is shredded well before putting it into the recycling bin.

I get something from some lending institution on a weekly basis. I know that lending institutions have to market their products as well as the next business. But since they are in the business that requires our most precious and valued information, I think there should be boundaries on how they can market. Having my name and address on large amounts of paper, attached to a lending institution’s promotional material is just asking for problems.

Instead of limiting the unsolicited mail, the lending institutions create more stringent ways to keep us out of our own financial accounts. And the cycle continues.

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