Friday, August 26, 2011

Will the real Tiffany please stand up?

I have always been pretty fortunate to have a unique name.  Not crazy out there unique, like Apple or Pilot, but still, in the midwest, Tiffany was not a common name as I was growing up.  And my maiden name is very unique.  Pretty much anyone with that name is someone to whom I am related.  And in my hometown, it was a name everyone knew, because two of my cousins were professional baseball players.  So, no one ever questioned that I was, well, me.

When I got married, I thought my married name was pretty unique.  I had never heard it before I met Hubby.  So, when someone told us that they saw in the newspaper where someone with my name had bought property in another town nearby, for a split second I thought I had been a victim of identity theft.  My heart dropped.  We tried to find the listing, but never did, so I let it go.  Later, I received a piece of mail from a local politician.  He has his aids find stories about local families in his constituency, and sends them the news clippings.  So, I opened the mail, and there was a picture of a girl whose mother was listed, and the mother's name was my name.  Clearly, this was a mistake, right?

I did a little searching, and found out that a woman with my same name lives in a town near me, and this mail was clearly intended for her.  So, I contacted her, got her address, and sent it to her.  Since then, we have come in contact with several people that know her, and when I tell them my name, the always mention her.  It is kind of a running joke.  Turns out Hubby's last name is fairly common in our county.

So, no one actually stole my identity.  But others are not nearly so lucky.  The FTC estimates that 9 million people suffer identity theft each year.  There are a lot of things we can do to help safeguard our personal information.  One such thing we can do in terms of identity theft protection is to use some sort of service, like Identity Hawk, to determine where your information is vulnerable, and to put safeguards in place.

I am amazed that in such a small area, someone has my same exact name.  I am sure this happens a lot in bigger cities, or with names like Joe Smith, or Mary Jones.  And in 20 years, when today's babies are all grown up, there will be lots of Jacob Johnson and Isabella Williams mix ups I am sure.