Identity Theft: A Real-World Version of ‘The Walking Dead’

In the post-apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead,” it’s a foregone conclusion that zombies happen, and they aren’t picky. One real-world parallel of finding yourself surrounded by hungry zombies is the plague of identity theft. With more than 1 billion records “out there,” it’s just a matter of time before you get got.

When it comes to identity theft, people have many questions and few answers. Should I shred sensitive documents? (Yes.) Is it worse to lose a wallet, a smartphone, or a computer? (It depends on how much sensitive information they contain.) Does it really matter if all of the logins and passwords for my online accounts are the same? (Yes, it really does.) How common is identity theft? (Very.) What are my chances of being defrauded by identity thieves? (The odds are ever in their favor.) Is there anything I can do to avoid becoming a victim? (No.)

Identity theft is the worst kind of dumb luck. You can do a number of things to keep it from ruining your life, but there isn’t much you can do to stop it from happening to you. Identity thieves are like coyotes (or zombies): They wander around looking for scraps (or surviving humans). They take whatever they can find. They are opportunists.

The proposition that you will be able to fence off your property and maintain a completely buttoned-up, coyote- (or zombie-) free life while remaining on high alert 24/7 is a pipedream. When the bad guys of Scamville pad your way, there’s not much you can do about it. You can hope they don’t find a way into your personal finances, or that your information camouflage is failsafe, but no one is that good or that lucky all the time.

As Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Fear and Loathing in America, “Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.” If I can persuade you of nothing else, let me convince you that everyone gets got. If you believe this, or you’ve already been the victim of an identity-related crime, my hope is that you’ll find what you are looking for in my new book, Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves, which comes out on Black Friday.


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