By Maceo Keeling –
William Shakespeare had many famous works that have passed the test of time.
I think they have done so because of their profound simplicity. Today I have borrowed from Shakespeare, and my topic is “Identity Theft.”
Shakespeare wrote the following in Act 3, Scene 3 of his great play Othello:
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”
While it may be a little hard to follow at first, the idea is worth understanding fully and embracing without reservation. Let me try to make it plain.
What people think of you matters
The verse means that a good reputation is the most valuable thing we can have, no matter who we are. If you steal my money, you’re just stealing trash. It’s something, but it’s really meaningless: it was mine, now it’s yours, and it will belong to countless others in the future. But if you steal my reputation, you’re robbing me of something that has no value to you, but the loss of it makes me much poorer.
The importance of one’s reputation was clear way back then, no doubt. But today it is so important that criminals steal your good reputation and can make money off it. And they’ll pay good money to buy your personal information. When this occurs we refer to it as Identity Theft.
Disparaging your good name
Obviously, today we are heavily judged by what people say about us and what reports and record say about us. We can damage ourselves, and others can “make me poorer” if I am not careful with my words, records, and reports.
Your good name can be stolen or destroyed by anyone who is a gossip. They can say things that are not true and damage your reputation almost beyond repair. Joe can tell the truth for 70 years and if one person finds out one “little lie” that Joe told, he could be branded a liar. And if you do make a misstep that gets you in “the box” for a youthful charge, that can follow you the rest of your life, limiting opportunities for jobs, education, loans, housing, etc.
But what if you have lived a perfectly clean life? No criminal charges, no bad checks, no fights, no nothing. You’ve got a reputation to be envied! In that case, instead of worrying about gossips and liars who want to bad-mouth you, you have to be aware of a whole other world of thieves.
Profiting from your good name
There are those who want your good name, not to disparage it but to profit from it! They’re professional criminals. They appear on the telephone, the Internet and on auction sites like Ebay and Craigslist. Many identity thieves “shoulder surf”: when you punch in your PIN on your debit card, they look over your shoulder and watch the digits you put in the machine. Sometimes they even do it by security cameras above the gas pump or in the supermarket.
Identity thieves will steal your trash from your home or office, looking for old credit card statements, credit card offers you did not accept and more. They’ll send emails requesting wire information and offer money to use your bank account, or pretend to be a store asking for payment of a bill—and they have enough information about you to convince you they are that creditor; or, if they’re trying to shop with your credit card, to convince a store that they are you, with your excellent credit rating and high limit on your card. They wreak havoc on your life, and often the damage lasts for years.
Protect yourself …
… by taking yourself and your information seriously.
Don’t put your business in the street. The Bible says, a fool speaks his whole mind. That means he or she just runs their mouth in season and out of season. They hold nothing private and they are not discreet.
Protect your information. Do not give your Social Security number out unless it is absolutely necessary. If you are not sure, don’t give it and make them explain why it is required.
Hold your passwords tight. If you have lots of accounts, you probably have lots of Usernames and Passwords, too—more than you can remember. One colleague set up a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, where he lists each account, the email address that goes with it, the username, the password, including when the password was last changed, security questions, etc.
BUT—it’s not saved to any computer, phone, or tablet. It exists ONLY on a thumb drive that he plugs in when needed and takes out the rest of the time. And it doesn’t identify whom it belongs to (“if found, return to …”). That way, even if someone hacks into the system they can’t access it, and if someone breaks into the house there’s no piece of paper on the desk (or in a drawer) that lists all that information. Keep a backup, too, in case this one dies or disappears.
Don’t give out address, phone number, date of birth, credit card numbers. On your computer, and for your accounts, don’t use easy passwords like mother’s maiden name, birth dates, or repeating numbers like (44444). Password-protect the computer itself, and make it lock by itself if you leave it unattended for more than a few minutes. This sounds complicated but I just get my sons to hook me up, no problem! Go online and look up other ways to protest your reputation. Your reputation is your social signature, so don’t be a victim or a survivor of fraud. Protect your good name!
Dr. King had a dream, now we must have vision. The Conscious Call radio program airs every Monday at 11:30 a.m. on WRES-FM 100.7. In a collaboration with the radio program, the Urban News will help keep readers informed about events, programs, news, and the progress of The Conscious Call. For more information, contact the Conscious Call at (828) 989-6999 and visit www.theconsciouscall.com.
The opinions and statements made in this column are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of The Urban News.