How consumers respond to identity theft crime
“Apparently [the data tapes] fell off the back of a truck...”

What is the personal data you should protect?

In its July 1, 2007 issue, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article about how various experts protect themselves from identity theft. The article covers techniques we consumers can use, too. Now on to the main topic of this blog entry.

Since IBM informed me that IBM had lost data tapes with personal data about me and thousands of other current and former employees, I've visited a lot of web sites and blogs to educate myself about identity theft. I wrote earlier how IBM's carelessness was one reason why I started this blog. While surfing the Internet, I've noticed that most identity theft sites seem to have lots of useful tips and advice about prevention and how to repair the damage post-theft, but few seem to list the precise personal data we consumers must protect.

So, I've started a list of the personal data items you should protect:

  • Full, legal name
  • Residential address
  • Residential telephone number (land-line or cellular)
  • Birth date / birth place / birth certificate
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Credit card numbers (and any associated PIN numbers)
  • Bank account numbers (checking, savings, 401-K, retirement, brokerage, mortgages)
  • Usernames and passwords for online accounts (Internet Service Provider, banking accounts, brokerage account, credit cards, etc.)
  • Bank ATM/Debit card number and PIN number
  • Health insurance / prescription / dental card and account numbers
  • Driver's license number
  • Professional licenses (e.g., nurse, doctor, etc.)
  • Passport, Visa, immigration papers and account numbers
  • Supermarket cards with check cashing
  • Military ID card
  • Renewable long distance telephone card
  • Health club or school ID cards (especially if they have your Social Security number on them)
  • Medical history and medical records
  • Additionally, if you are a parent you'll need to protect the personal data for your children
  • Additionally, if you are caring for an elder parent, you'll need to protect the personal data for your parents

The Ask the Advisor blog has some useful information about which of your personal data items are more sensitive than others. The Identity Theft Resource Center maintains a good list of personal data. Once you have a clear understanding of the personal data you must protect, it is easier to determine all of the places this data is stored at... both in your home and elsewhere. Reminder I am not a data security professional or a financial planner. The right column of this blog lists professional sources you can and should use.

Next entry: “Apparently [the data tapes] fell off the back of a truck...”


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