Afraid of identity theft? Here's a simple solution: Lie

I was standing in a hallway, waiting in line for my flu shot, when a colleague walked by.

"Are you getting a flu shot?" I asked her.

"I'd like to," she said. "But I hate giving out my social security number and birth date and address and all that. It makes me nervous."

I laughed - not because she was nervous of identity theft - but because of how simple a solution there was to her problem.

"Why not just lie?" I asked. "Give a fake social security number. A fake address. Give a fake name if you want. Do you really think anyone is going to verify your information after you've received your flu shot? And even if they do, how would they ever trace it back to you? And even if they did, what would happen? Would they take the flu shot back? Have you arrested? Execute you?"

"Really?" she said. "Just give a fake number?"

I explained that for more almost two decades, whenever I am required to complete a time sheet for work above and beyond my salaried hours, I have always filled in the line for "Position" with the word "upright" rather than "teacher."

Dozens upon dozens of time sheets, all completed the same way over the course of almost 20 years, and never a word from anyone.   

"Unless I'm dealing with the IRS or my insurance company, I almost never give out my real social security number," I explained. "When I rent a cart for golf and am required to sign a waiver, I always sign my friend's name and provide his phone number. Other than my wife, it's the only other phone number I know by heart."

"Really?" she asked. 

I explained that the bureaucrats of the world are obsessed with gathering data but oftentimes have little interest in determining if the data is accurate. It's just boxes in need of checking and nothing more. 

I could tell that she liked the idea, but I could also see that this was something new to her. There was a moral hazard at play.

Teachers are often rules followers. A vast majority of them - at least at the elementary level - are formerly well behaved, hard working students who wanted to please their teachers. They became teachers because they loved their teachers and loved school. The idea of falsifying information on an official document is something that most teachers wouldn't even consider, despite legitimate concerns over identity theft and database security. 

In the end, she decided not to take my advice. She skipped the flu shot and went on her way, unprotected from the oncoming flu season. 

It was a victory for the flu virus, which managed to preserve another vector for distribution thanks to the fear of identity theft and an unwillingness to falsify documents and deceive medical personnel.

It must be a difficult life when you can't freely lie to authorities and amuse yourself by completing paperwork in ridiculous ways.