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 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity

Book Review of: 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity In a Digital Age

New Financial Threats You Need to Know and How to Avoid Them

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Review of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity, by Author (Softcover, 2012)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer:

Sometimes when I review a book, I find the title and/or subtitle doesn't accurately reflect the contents of the book. That's the case here, but with a very pleasant surprise. The title says 50 ways, but I lost track at around 200. This author grossly so grossly exceeds what he promises that any reader will be delighted. He lends new meaning to the idea of exceeding customer expectations (although, in this case, reader expectations).

The only connection I can see between "merely" 50 ways and the vastly larger coverage Mr. Weisman provides is that Chapter 22, "Steve's Rules" provides 58 tips. He lists 59, but one of them is repeated. So even here, he's going beyond what he promised (by 16%).

He didn't generate this volume by writing fluff, either. It's mostly good information, with the balance being great information. On top of that, he writes in a very accessible manner, making it easy for the reader to understand what Mr. Weisman is talking about and how to put that advice to practical use.

I've been writing a regular column on security for over a decade now, and I have a good feel for what works and what doesn't. I also understand what needs to be done and what isn't worth doing, though that distinction seems to escape many security experts. Some of the articles and books I've read on security address the 1 millionth of a percent likelihood things that someone might dream up after eating bad enchiladas. And their solution involves steps so impractical as to make their advice worthless.

Mr. Weisman takes a practical, "here's how you protect yourself" approach that addresses the real needs of real people in the real world. He didn't sit around dreaming up stuff in hopes of impressing the reader or carving out a special niche by dint of spinning the absurd. He identified the kinds of problems that actually happen and that you can actually do something about without going nuts. The solutions he proposes are readily doable, and he makes sure the reader understands how to do them.

Two other common problems with these sort of books are:

  1. The authors do the drink from a fire hose thing to the reader, presenting this in an ADD-afflicted manner that makes you wonder if the author skipped his meds.
  2. The authors, in alarmist tones, insist you "must" do a laundry list of things. But if you tried to do all of these things, you wouldn't have enough time to sleep each day.

Neither problem exists in this work. Mr. Weisman respects the reader, and seems to be taking the position of trusted and knowledgeable advisor who takes into account the limitations we readers have. Instead of advising us to install multiple security cameras all over our home or some other such paranoid behavior, he advises us not to leave sensitive information where it's readily accessible to babysitters, contractors, etc. Instead of advising us to set up a complex bank transaction forwarding scheme, he advises us to not use private ATMs. And so on.

All that said, many of the things Mr. Weisman addresses will be a surprise to the typical reader. Put this last point together with what I said previously, and you start to understand that this book is not only a real bargain but is essential reading for anyone wanting to take reasonably achievable precautions against identity-related disaster.

This is especially critical today, when the majority people (inexplicably, in my view) keep tracking devices with them at all times.

For some reason, they call these tracking devices "mobile phones" just because they incidentally also have phone capabilities. But make no mistake, they are primarily devices that track your every move, and your movements are duly recorded in the NSA's massive "spy on citizens" database (that's not mere speculation; you can find substantiation easily enough).

Maybe that phone capability is why so many people feel obligated to let the NSA know their every movement. I don't see it as a worthwhile trade-off, myself.

Your best strategy is to not have a mobile phone at all. Your next best strategy is to keep it off (battery removed) unless you need to use it. As you continue up the spectrum, you get to app-enabled smart phones and it's here where serious security breaches happen with regularity. Breaches that private-sector criminals exploit with impunity. Mr. Weisman provides solid advice for those who carry these extra-vulnerable tracking devices and insist on loading them with personal information, passwords, and other tidbits that identity thieves just love to obtain.

If your tracking device / smartphone gets stolen, the result can easily be the same as if you handed a thief a checkbook with all of the checks already signed by you. Mr. Weisman tells you how to dramatically reduce the risk of such an outcome.

Not all identity thieves need to steal your tracking device to get your information. Consider, for example, the identity thieves who have jobs at the Institute of Reprobates and Sociopaths (notice the first letters). They hide behind the awesome, unbridled power of this unaccountable, above-the-law agency. That shield enables them to engage in lawlessness so shocking, it makes your head spin to read about it.

For example, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported that these people stole 2300 computers from their own offices in a single year. Yet the senior mismanagers of that agency, who could not identify which computers were stolen, had the gall to assert that no taxpayer information was compromised. However, scam after scam gets implemented by these criminals--the infamous Hoyt Fiasco and Amcor Atrocity being two well-known misadventures.

That said, implementing the practices recommended by Mr. Weisman will make it that much harder for rogue employees of this useless agency to abuse what information you do send them. You will also, of course, make it far more difficult for other criminals to harm you.

In my opinion, this book makes a far better gift to a colleague, friend, or relative than any of the typical items people buy in a similar price range. This could well be the gift of a life unfettered by a host of ills arising from identity theft.

This book consists of 22 chapters in 277 pages. It also has a two-page introduction. The ten-page table of contents is unusual in its level of drilldown detail. It seems Mr. Weisman intends for this book to be an ongoing reference, rather than something you read and maybe act upon. The 15-page index is also extensive. There isn't a bibliography, but Mr. Weisman used references throughout the text. Some readers might think Mr. Weisman was remiss for not including a "Recommended Reading" section, but this book is so complete that such a section is unnecessary.

 


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