Updated on 08.28.14

#19: Information Requests

Trent Hamm

25 Rules to Grow Rich By

This is part of 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.

You can jump ahead to rule #20 or jump back to rule #18.

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  1. Peter says:


    This is a cardinal rule. My wife is always nagging me because she claims I’m overly cautious about giving out personal information. Yet only because I’ve brought up a similar sounding statement to yours, repeatedly, that she was able to recognize a scam artist when they called. Also keep in mind they don’t always represent “money” interests.

    The guy who called my wife said he was with the state fraud unit. He repeated my wife’s name, our address and phone number and then said that they were tracking an illegal withdrawl from our checking account and that we had to act fast to keep $499 from being removed. He said the amount was below a “triggering” level for tracking and that it was a widespead problem and they were close to capturing the crooks. He sounded very official, very calm, and said he didn’t need any identifying information, just the number off the bottom of one of our checks so he could verify the account and that the money had been removed.

    My wife was uneasy with this, but might have fallen for it, especially when the guy said he understood her concern and provided a call back number with the correct area code for the nearest major city and an 800 number, and then pressed her for the need to “help” them quickly get these rip off artists before the opportunity passed.

    Still she hesitated and the more the guy talked the more unsure my wife became, so she called me on the cell phone and I told her to tell them I’d get right over to the bank and take care of it from our end. He said he understood and ended the conversation. The numbers provided were, of course, false and no money had been taken from our account.

    Had my wife given the routing number to the man, they could have taken money out of our account. So just another scam and they are getting better at it.

  2. MinchinWeb says:

    I love the advise on your site. Thanks for the valuable resource.

    P.S. “Never” is spelt with a ‘v’, not a ‘w’ ;-)

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