Dear Read­ers

Reader's Digest - - Dear Readers - Bruce Kel­ley, edi­tor-in-chief Write to me at let­

IT’S AN EPI­DEMIC, BRUCE,” Edna is say­ing on the phone. “These guys prob­a­bly have your date of birth, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber, ad­dress, maybe much more. It’s a to­tal fac­sim­ile of you.”

A fac­sim­ile of me? What does that even mean? It means my pas­sive-ag­gres­sive is­sues around se­cu­rity have caught up to me. It means my iden­tity has been stolen.

I’m that guy who gets some pre­his­toric adren­a­line kick when he leaves the house and car un­locked or reads his credit card num­ber and se­cu­rity code aloud to any­one who asks—in a store, wher­ever. Bring on the risk! I treat hack­ers as if they were ur­ban myths. To wit, as I’m talk­ing to Edna, I’m on my lap­top, where ALL Kel­ley log-ins and pass­words—ac­tu­ally, one pass­word, stub­bornly stuck to for 20 years—ex­ist in an open doc­u­ment on my desk­top called “IDS.”

“If you re­veal your se­crets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for re­veal­ing them to the trees,” Kahlil Gi­bran said. But I’ve al­ways blamed the wind, los­ing my tem­per when­ever my bank or ca­ble com­pany tried to save me from my­self. How dare you ask me to alert you when we travel or to add a “spe­cial char­ac­ter” to my one easy-to-re­mem­ber, easy-to-hack pass­word? My con­ve­nience is more im­por­tant than your at­tempts to pro­tect me!

That con­tempt sounds harm­less in the­ory, but as Edna, our very rea­son­able tax pre­parer, ex­plains, the bad guys have ap­par­ently made a mock­ery of my bad at­ti­tude. In fact, they’ve turned it into a fake W-2 in my name that has al­lowed them to suc­cess­fully file tax re­turns and be due cash re­funds in not one but two states. My only so­lace: I’m far from the only vic­tim out there, as “How to Pro­tect Your Iden­tity Now” on page 54 re­veals—15.4 mil­lion Amer­i­can con­sumers were vic­tims of iden­tity fraud in 2016.

I thank Edna for alert­ing the two states to the crimes, which as a re­sult won’t cost us any­thing—any­thing ex­cept the stress of know­ing they still had “me.”

When I put down the phone, I am newly ma­ture. I go out to the drive­way and lock my car door. Baby steps!

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