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Privacy, Identity Theft and Genealogy -- More on Identity Theft

Review:

In the past few posts I have been commenting on the fact that privacy and identity theft are both real concerns, albeit not nearly so important as the media would have you believe. Given the reality of the criminal activities included in the umbrella term "identity theft," it turns out that the danger of having your identity stolen, posed by sharing genealogical information, even online, is vanishingly small despite the reportedly large number of instances. Also, in the modern electronic world, privacy is mostly an illusion. It is possible to keep some very personal things private, but the vast majority of our interactions with the public are more or less easily discoverable.

Could I steal your identity if I had a copy of your genealogy file?

First of all, I am not going to steal anything, much less anyone's identity. That said, what if someone wanted to "steal your identity." Could they do that by using your genealogy? (This discussion assumes that your genealogy is done well enough to provide some accurate information) OK, here is a hypothetical. You open a bank account at a local bank and they ask you to answer a security question. It has long been the practice to use your mother's maiden name as an identifying question. Given that is the case, could someone find your pedigree online and thereby learn your mother's maiden name and then use that information to impersonate you at the bank and wipe out your bank account? Well, it could be a problem if you were dumb enough to use your mother's maiden name (easily obtainable in many cases) as a security question, rather than another more difficult question, like the name of your first pet dog or something like that. However, if all the crook had was your mother's maiden name, it would be nearly impossible to defraud a bank with that information alone.
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