Comcast Asks for Your Social Security Number

Here is a nice letter we received by a woman who not only attended an identity theft speech, but works for the finest document shredding company in the world, Fellowes. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Hi John! I hope all is well!  Before I get to my experience today with Comcast, I just want to say that I’m very glad you’re continuing to partner with Fellowes as our Identity Theft spokesman. Our sales force STILL talks about your presentation from two years ago at our National Sales Meeting!! Your message definitely has an impact…

As such, here is an interesting story that happened to me earlier this afternoon, and it instantly made me think of you.  I tried to set up cable and internet services through Comcast on their website, and at the end of the set-up sheet they inform you that you must “chat” online with one of their analysts in order for them to process your service request.  Which is obnoxious, but apparently necessary.

So I wait my turn in the queue and then the analyst starts asking me some additional questions that weren’t captured in the initial service request.  Things like: do I have any questions, is this the service I wish to activate, what is my Social Security number.  Of course, I did NOT give it out!  The analyst gave me the standard assurance that it was company policy, and they would never give out my information.  But I could NOT believe they had a live person ask for it in the first place!  The first thing that went through my mind was your “Think Like a Spy” motto—honestly, what would prevent someone from just writing that number down off the screen as I gave it out??  Not to mention the fact that all of those chat conversations are probably logged, for quality assurance purposes.  So who knows how many people have access to that data.

Their solution to me not providing my SSN?  Driver’s License number and birthdate.  To a live stranger on the other side of the screen.

Needless to say, my skin was crawling by the end of the session.  I can only image the number of people that give away their info without even batting an eye. I’m still disturbed by it, and I’m actually tempted to write Comcast a little note telling them as much.

I’m not sure how many other companies have people set up services this way, so if you haven’t heard of this scenario before, it might be something to look into!  Here’s hoping this is not a wide-spread practice…

Unfortunately, asking for your Social Security number when it isn’t actually needed is a very common practice. You can avoid Comcast identity theft. The answer? Don’t give it!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.


Identity Theft Speech at the FTC – Removing the Black Belt

How long has it been since you wore a white belt in your area of expertise?

I just had the singular honor of delivering an identity theft speech for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. In case you don’t understand the humorous irony, let me explain.

The FTC is the arm of the U.S. Government that is responsible for educating you and me about our rights as consumer, including how to fight identity theft. In other words, they are the original identity theft experts! Those of us who are professional identity theft speakers turn to the FTC for information, guidance and materials.

So why did they pay my fee to talk about a subject they know so much about?


Let me use a Taekwondo metaphor to explain what I mean. In many martial arts programs, one level before achieving your black belt, the Master teacher asks the candidate to again wear their white belt to signify that the student is returning to the state of a beginner. The ritual is a symbolic reminder that we only grow and evolve when we are humble enough to admit how much we don’t know. It is related to the Zen principle of viewing life through the eyes of an ever-learning child.

Speaking to the FTC was a mutual act of humility – an admission that neither of us “experts” have it totally figured out. If we did, identity theft would no longer be the fastest growing crime in America. From the FTC, I learned a great deal about the education and regulation process: where we are failing in our efforts and where we must focus our energy. From me, the FTC hopefully has a living, breathing reminder of how drastically this crime can affect a human life as well as some broader skills on how to prevent fraud inside of corporations. We shared our different perspectives, and for that, we are both closer to our goals.

Shedding the black belts of expertise that we work so hard to craft for the more vulnerable and open-minded symbols of rank isn’t easy, but neither is becoming a true black belt. You see, earning a black belt isn’t about the belt, it’s about your ability to act with integrity even when no color, no reward, is involved. In an act of cooperation, let me share the wise resources of my fellow students and teachers at the FTC:

If you are interested in having John Sileo conduct fraud training and social engineering workshops for your organization, contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076. His satisfied clients include the Department of Defense, the FDIC, Pfizer and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Identity Theft Speech: Email Privacy

I just returned from doing an identity theft speech for the Department of Defense, and after the speech, a woman asked me a great question broader than just identity theft:

Do users of personal (not job related) email have a right to expect privacy? Does an email communication constitute a form of publication?

Email Privacy

Unless you own the servers that the mail is being processed on and transferred to, you have no right Read more

Eglin AFB Stumps the Identity Theft Expert

I just finished delivering an identity theft speech for the Department of Defense to the Airmen and Women of Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton, Florida. It is the highest honor for me to be able to serve the United States military, who so valiantly and humbly serve every American. Thank you Eglin AFB, and a special thanks to the person who asked me to clarify this question after the speech:

Is LifeLock identity theft monitoring service truly free to military personnel, or is it just for certain personnel? Read more