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An Open Letter From a so-called stupid

Why Identity Theft makes us all dummies, and what you can do to stop being stupid...

Someone recently told me, "You would have to be a stupid to lose your personal information." While I respectfully responded to this person in the moment, the comment has stuck with me. I present on Identity Theft all over the Western United States, and thought I would respond to this particular individual in writing.

There are multitudes of ways to lose your personal information. You have undoubtedly heard of many of them. Fake web sites, data theft, stealing people’s trash, stealing people’s outgoing mail, check fraud, etc., are just a few of the possibilities for loss of information. Job ads are also being used for Identity Theft. Monster.com ranks fake companies posing as real companies on their web site among their biggest problems.

So, to you who think that it could never happen to you, you might want to read this next sentence twice. No matter how good you are, no matter how vigilant, no matter how much you shred or tear, no matter how many times you go to the post office so that you don't put outgoing mail in your home mailbox, regardless of how well you can hide in your home, there is no 100% effective defense against Identity Theft. Let me say that again, in case you don't read it twice. There is NO 100% effective method to defend yourself against identity theft.

Here's an example of why. Let's say you want to get health insurance, or auto insurance, or finance a car, etc. Let's say for purposes of this example that you are trying to get health insurance through your company. This is a relatively simple process, right? Fill out the form, and wait to get the insurance cards in the mail.

What you may not realize is that the insurance agent has taken the form you filled out and submitted it for group health. It is submitted to three different companies for underwriting. So now, the insurance agent and the insurance company has the information from you, the three companies supplying the insurance coverage have the information on you, AND all of the employees at all four points have access to the information. Think about how many employees that might be.

That information is often then passed on to a data warehouse like ChoicePoint, and anyone who has access to ChoicePoint now has access to that information. Who has access to ChoicePoint? I think with the recent news articles, the more appropriate question is, who doesn't have access to ChoicePoint?

The information is also submitted to your MIB (Medical Information Bureau) file. Anyone who has access to the MIB files, now has access to all of that information. Who has access to the Medical Information Bureau records? Anyone, at any hospital around the United States, who has even a small amount of clearance, has access to the Medical Information Bureau records.

According to John Gardner, co-author or Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneurial Soul, "This makes the Identity Theft Shield, along with a Pre-Paid Legal Services Membership, an absolute must for anyone that’s breathing.”

So to you, sir, who more or less said to me, “You’d have to be stupid to become a victim of Identity Theft!” I wish you my best. If you want to continue thinking that shredding your information is going to protect you, then for you I respectfully choose a phrase used by my friend Larry Smith. “Sometimes, you just can’t fix stupid.”

Jonathan Kraft is Colorado’s foremost expert on computer-related Identity Theft. He has been helping employers and employees to protect themselves from the issues surrounding Identity Theft since long before identity theft reached today’s epidemic proportions. To learn how Mr. Kraft can protect you or your company against the effects of Identity Theft, please watch a 5 minute presentation at Identity Theft Secrets.com


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