I’ve seen an increasingly common trend for vendors or others to post sensitive personal information in public places, to prove that no harm will come, or that their solution will protect against any possible misuse. One person to do this recently, in response to the data loss by HM Revenue and Customs is Jeremy Clarkson, a TV broadcaster specializing in cars. Despite having no background in finance and fraud, he published his personal information in a newspaper column trying to diminish the idea that harm could come from the data breach. And that has come back to haunt him, as someone set up an automatic debit from his account of 500 GBP a month to be given to charity. My favorite part of the story is his new attitude:

"We must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy."

Beyond a good laugh, what can we get from this story?

  1. Review your bank accounts online regularly whenever possible. He did not check his account until the end of the month statement came and lost valuable time to oppose the debits.
  2. Don’t make yourself an easy target. He obviously called attention to himself as a TV personality that most regular people wouldn’t be able to do (publish their bank account in a newspaper), but you should still remove the low-hanging fruit (easy data to steal). For instance, shredding sensitive information and only sharing it when mandatory.
  3. As more people are harmed by misuse of their data, the outcry for better protection will grow stronger. This will filter up to the ears of our legislatures who will strengthen data protection laws to assist identity theft victims. Especially once it strikes their parent, sibling, or children.