The Simple Dollar is running a series in which we re-evaluate Money Magazine’s “25 Rules To Grow Rich By”. One “rule” will be re-evaluated each weekday until the series concludes; you can keep tabs on the action at the 25 Rules index.
Rule #19: Anyone who calls or e-mails you asking for your Social Security number or information about your bank or credit-card account is a scam artist.
This rule is on the right track, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The fact of the matter is that people are now constantly besieging us with requests for personal information, from Nigerian scam artists to cold callers looking for business. These people thrive on acquiring your personal information, because it has some value to them, either by itself or because it enables deeper contact and connection to you and your money.
As a result, I will newer share any personal or financial information with someone who has contacted me without my initiation of the contact. No credit cards, no account numbers, no Social Security numbers, no mother’s maiden name – nothing. Since I am not initiating the contact to relieve some need of my own, I have no reason to ever give away any of my most sensitive data.
Let’s even say for a moment that the business contacting me is “legitimate.” If that is the case, how trustworthy are they if they have a telemarketer calling me out of the blue and asking for information? If they ask for more than a mailing address, they’re asking for too much and I will never do business with that entity.
There are some information gathering mechanisms that are legitimate, but these typically aren’t seeking truly personal data on you. These include political polls and media rating programs. While I personally have no objection participating in these, you are giving away information at little or no cost that will cumulate in value for the caller, so do what you wish.
Let’s rewrite that rule.
Rewritten Rule #19: Anyone who contacts you at any time and requests personal information of any kind is a scam artist. You should initiate all contacts that require a personal information exchange.