Monthly Archives: March 2009

Privacy in Colombia

question-markAlmost everytime we go to a shop to buy things like clothes or electrodomestics, at the register they start by asking either mine or my wifes Cedula number (ID). Sometimes we are not paying attention and just give it, which leads to the next questions: what is your name, where do you live, phonenumber, email address etc?

The first time this happened to me I did not think about it too much and gave them my information as it was a famous clothing store here (Arturo Calle) and did not worry too much about them using the information wrongly. The second time they asked me somewhere, I just asked them why they needed it and the reply was a simple: “I have no idea”.

store-clerk-1

The third time a store asked me for all these details, I actually wanted to see what happened if I would refuse to give it. Amazingly in that particular store, they said they could not sell anything to me if I did not give them any information!! I was probably “lucky” and had the only clerk in Colombia that would not just make up a name and address, but anyway, it happened and I left the store semi-mad. From then on I decide that I was going to have a fake name: Oscar Ortiz and my address, phone number and Cedula are very flexible.

Now I don’t want to scare anyone, but most know that in its history Colombia has had a big problem with kidnapping, which luckily has changed a lot in recent years. Besides this there are cases known where people try to find out as much information as they can and they get you involved in their scam. Actually everywhere in the world, people are getting more aware of things like identity and bank fraud, but here it seems nobody is really worried when it comes to this particular situation. In other situations (like over the phone, or when meeting new people) many people are actually extremely cousious here with giving information.

idtheft-1I am not particularly worried of being kidnapped, as I own no more than the couch I am sitting on and the bed I sleep in (which both are very comfortable by the way), but I find it amazing that people are so easy in giving all their information to what basically is a stranger. It even goes so far that on the receipt that you have to sign when you pay something with a debit or credit card, you have to add your ID number and leave your phone number! So now they have your credit card number, a magnetic copy of your card, your signature, your ID number, your name and everything else they would need to clone you or your cards (accept for a picture, but that should not be too hard to fake)

It says on the receipts that the DIAN (government) is obliging everyone to fill in the details correctly and that they might check these receipts to see if you have. Well if they ever want to visit Oscar Ortiz, they can give me a call and I will happily pass and explain to them my objections to this way of dealing with peoples privacy.

Ah no wait!! they don’t have my number!!!hehehe