Characters in the Security Plaza

Questions & Answers: Personal Information Is Valuable

Isaac: Come on! 25 points away from a new high score and I choke! Awesome. Now the Cyclorians have captured enough personal information to take over our planet, and the world is doomed. Oh, well! What's up?

The Cyclo-whos are stealing what now?

Isaac: Oh... ha ha. It's all in this arcade game I'm playing. Aliens from the planet Cyclor are stealing personal information from unsuspecting humans: their names, birthdays, addresses, bank account and credit card numbers, and—most valuable of all—their Social Security numbers. The point of the game is to protect people's information from the aliens—and I failed.

Why would aliens want my personal information?

Isaac: Why? So they can replace certain individuals with aliens pretending to be them, so they can secretly infiltrate our society and take over the world. Ok, so maybe that would never really happen, but in real life, your personal information really is valuable to a lot of people. Stores and restaurants might want your contact information so they can send you ads and coupons, a website might require your e-mail address to access a service online, and places like banks might need personal information like your Social Security number to open an account for you. And, of course, identity thieves want your information, too. With all that interest, you've gotta be careful with it!

How do I know when it's ok to give out my info?

Isaac:That's a tricky one to answer. First, you want to know who's asking—is it a store you go to all the time, or did you get an email from somebody asking for some passwords or your Social Security number? Seriously, don't go just giving your Social Security number out to people—and never give it to anybody who emails, calls or texts you for it. Legit businesses don't work that way. But I digress. Once you know who you're dealing with, ask why they need your personal information, how they'll use it, and whether they'll share it with anyone. Remember, your personal information is kind of like cash—it's valuable.

What's the big deal with Social Security numbers?

Isaac:A Social Security number is part of your identity—like fingerprints, no two are the same. Here's why it's a big deal: say my Social Security number gets in the wrong hands. A thief might use it to pretend to be me and open accounts and charge things in my name. He could buy stuff and the bills would go to me. That's called identity theft.