So much of our lives come down to just a handful of words – a keyword, a password, someone putting in a good word. Can our lives really boil down to a few words and random numbers? There’s a PIN for my voice mail – a password for my computer login – password for each of my email accounts – password to online banking – password for my credit cards – PIN for my debit card – passwords for every club membership and association I belong to — and god help you if you are looking for a job right now. You’ll be creating a password for every job site you go on to put in a resume, which for some people can be hundreds. Then make sure you have your resume, your entire professional life summarized on a page, optimized with just the right keywords!! With all these things we access, and with all the access to us and our info – how safe are we when we are defined with so few words?
For instance, I just got my renewed credit card in the mail and couldn’t wait to activate it! Such a simple task really – just call the 888 number on the little sticky placed on your card that you received in the mail (we’re not even going to address the risk in having your mail swiped, lost, misdirected, etc.). When the automated system is actually working properly, this is a really easy – almost too easy – way of enabling this little piece of plastic with the power to purchase!
However, the process for me was not going to be simple – the automated system insisted that I must have typed in the wrong CC number three times, so it transferred to me to a live person. Well, at least this should also be simple – I have the card in my hands and can certainly read off the numbers, even if I can’t type them in. So, after verifying the CC number was indeed in my name, and I knew my correct address, and my date of birth had not changed, and I accurately spewed out all this info to the CSR, I figured I was just moments away from getting my new card activated. But wait – there’s more! Now we have a series of “security” questions to go through. I guess the litany of questions I had already been asked and answered, didn’t count enough. It was a bit shocking what they dragged up for me in this “pop quiz” of my own life – and how far back they went!
Questions they asked were in A, B, C format – and went back at least 25 years! Where I owned property to what addresses I lived at, to the city of my high school. All of which I knew I answered correctly. But then, the blow of hearing from the CSR – “Well, there’s just one more question now and you will have to get this one right or the system will not authorize the card.” Was he actually implying that I got an answer – about my own life – WRONG?? Crazy! And now I’m livid that I even had to go through this game show of 20 questions. If the automated system had been working I’d be out shopping by now! If a criminal HAD stolen my card, I’m SURE the system would have been working fine for that activation to happen quickly and automatically!
So, what’s going on here?
How can the legitimacy of my own life’s answers be questioned, when I’m the one with the answers?
“Where did those questions even come from?”, I asked the CSR.
Come to find out the “secret” words you’ve assigned for your bank accounts and credit cards security access, which were supposedly private, really are not. Your mother’s maiden name, the city you were born, your high school name, as well as every address you ever lived at are a matter of public record. So, now the banks are taking PUBLIC records to identify you. How did access to my private accounts get to be public info? If the records are public, where’s the security (not to mention the privacy)? Plus, how could it be that I would have trouble identifying myself to get my renewed credit card activated, when any common (and I mean common, as in “C” student who can read and use the internet type of common) thief could get this info? The year I was born, my high school, graduating year, hometown, etc. are all on Facebook – Where I worked is displayed on LinkedIn, and so on.
So, where is the “Security” in my “Security Questions”?
Where is the privacy when Public Records are used by my own bank to identify me?
And here we are — down to a few words – and really down to a lack of common sense – when it comes to any type of security or privacy for your life. So, thank you Facebook, and other Social Media sites for your attempt to make it “easier” for those of us trying to connect with our babysitter from 30 years ago – security and privacy are just getting in the way of this important connection.