IDENTITY SAFETY FOR GENEALOGISTS
by Roland Rhoades
We hear a lot about identity theft these days. Genealogists can be at more risk. Why? What do banks and credit card companies use as a security password to make sure that you are you? Usually your motherís maiden name. They do so because it is a simple question for THEM. Motherís maiden name is certainly not a SECURITY password for genealogists!, or anybody. Everybody knows our motherís maiden name through our genealogy research and sharing our family trees with others, or your cousins sharing your family tree. Mine has been in publication for 20 years in various places and Iíve never had a problem. But after I started thinking about it, I certainly told all my banks that it is not a safe password for anybody. Besides genealogies, motherís maiden name can easily be found for many people in newspapers through obituaries, marriage notices, and birth notices, and from many vital records publicly available from the states. The State of Maine for example has compilations of marriages through 2009, and actual birth certificates through 1955 and scattered others after that, and I've collected all the Leavitts for our books. Some people mistakenly think every record with a maiden name should be privatized, and genealogies should no longer be published that enable people to find long-lost cousins. Thatís the whole point of genealogy for many people. Why should we suffer because of a few dishonest people?
The solution is deceptively simple. Use a different security password!! Lobby legislators to tell financial institutions to not accept maiden names as a security password for anyone, by explaining to them how insecure it is. Pick something else like a first or favorite pet, teacher, school, anything that would not be found in print or guessed by anyone. And I've noticed lately that I am getting asked OTHER security questions. Maiden names arenít the only issue for security, but it is one step to make yourself safer.
Some people also wonder about including their birthdates in family genealogies. A birthdate in a book really isn't going to help anyone steal your identity. Anybody can find your birthdate from public vital records, or websites like birthdatabase.com if they really wanted to. Social security numbers are the most crucial, but you also have to give that number out if you ever want a job or home-business distributorship, because tax records is what the number is for in the first place. It takes a number of security leaks to cause any trouble. What you need to worry about is computer security, keeping people out of your PC where they may find bank accounts, credit card numbers, and your saved tax returns.
Be smart without letting fear control your life, and then we can successfully and safely update our Leavitt genealogies, and you can see your name and family in print.
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