According to the New York State police,

All an identity thief needs is any combination of your Social Security number, birth date, address, and phone number.

while the UK ActionFraud police (in the Protect yourself tab) advise

Don’t throw out anything with your name, address or financial details without shredding it first.

If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details, never reveal your full password, login details or account numbers.

How true is the first claim? I have read that it is crucial to keep ones social security number secret, but how confidential must I make my date of birth? Presumably I need to expose my address and phone number for daily transactions.

As for the second claim, I often see bank account numbers freely given out. Is that risky?

What other information, such as

  • passport number
  • full name (including middle names)
  • mother's maiden name

should be kept private?

Is it much worse to publicise, for example, a scan of my driving licence than just its number?

  • 4
    Please ignore the mathematical fact that the first claim is patently wrong: Any combination includes the null set!
    – Gnubie
    Dec 19, 2012 at 19:10
  • May be a better fit for superuser or other stack exchange. Dec 19, 2012 at 20:04
  • You can open a bank account with name, address and date of birth. You can also create a fake photo ID with that information and use that to obtain a bank account number (or at least make a withdrawal) pretty easily.
    – Ryathal
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:16
  • 1
    This question needs to be limited to a region. Obviously SSN is not an issue in the UK. @Ryathal's comment is not true in Australia.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:52
  • @Ryathal - Not since the Patriot Act. Banks in the U.S. need proof of citizenship or legal residency to open an account for an individual. Having an SSN is the most commonly-used method, as U.S. citizenship is a requisite for that (Passport numbers are usually good too for the same reason).
    – KeithS
    Dec 20, 2012 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


This is actually on topic over on Security Stack Exchange

  • in reality, any information you give increases your risk of identity theft, as these groups also use social engineering to persuade your bank or other organisation to provide other information, and collect publicly available information (such as everything you have ever posted on Facebook!)

So while giving out a full set of information is obviously a bad idea, even divulging limited information should be looked at very carefully - ask yourself why they want/need the information they are asking you for.

  • 1
    Got it! I did think it's a probabilistic thing: The more information given out, the greater the chances of ones identity being stolen. One could be unlucky and have identity stolen without anything given out, or be lucky and publish everything without incurring harm, but its all in the probabilities.
    – Gnubie
    Dec 21, 2012 at 12:32

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