Convenient credit = security threat

Easy credit is not a benefit, it's a bug.

Remember all those stolen laptops and lost backup tapes?

For a while it seemed like every organization in the world had a cavalier attitude toward our personal data. Not a week went by without 70,000 compromised seniors, 10,000 sailors, 40,000 preschoolers. Even newborn babies were having their Social Security numbers stolen two decades before they got to use them in a job. But that is all in the past. Quick action has stopped the bleeding and we're all now much safer. After all there hasn't been a reported breach in months, right?

Not so fast -- there were more than 20 major data compromises in the last three months that went almost completely unreported. Yet the media reports have almost disappeared. In four years compromised identity went from front-page sensation to ho-hum. Outrage-fatigue has taken the wind out of reporting.

It's hard to be angry with your bank, your video store and your insurance company at the same time for losing your data. Eventually we all become resigned to the fact of identity theft/loss. But I'm not giving up so easily.

A week ago, just before leaving for another business trip I got a call from my bank. A "suspicious" transaction on my checking account was flagged for investigation. Apparently I had received pre-authorization for a substantial charge by a cable company. Problem was that the cable company was one that I had never done business with for a simple reason: they don't even serve my state.

This time I was lucky because my bank caught the problem. Other than the inconvenience of paying for items as small as a pack of gum on a platinum card because I couldn't withdraw cash, there was no major impact. My card was cancelled and reissued in a matter of days. I still can't understand how it was compromised. I have to admit I'm a card-theft newbie. When it comes to financials I shred, encrypt, obfuscate, compartmentalize, review and audit vigorously. If only I was as committed to flossing, my dentist would be as proud as my bank.

But I can't win this battle alone, none of us can. The age of instant gratification is the age of instant credit. Just because I might want to get financing for an impulse-buy of a sports car, doesn't mean it should be just as easy. I don't want to be pre-authorized for a jumbo mortgage online in 30 seconds. I want it to be harder -- much harder. Every time I make a transaction over US$100 on any card I get an SMS notification a few seconds later. But if I try to open a $100k line of credit, the three bureaus won't even make a peep. It's not that useful to get notification a week later: "you've been owned".

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