Monday, October 31, 2011

Avoiding Identity Theft in Brazil

I found a very interesting post of 12 tips on how to Avoid Identity Theft. I decided to see if I could translate this to life in Brazil!

1. Order your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies: I'm not sure if this is possible down here although I assume it is. Mr. Rant is constantly checking our credit card statements. That may be because of the risk of cloned credit cards. Maybe I should inform him of my R$2000 bill at the gas station...

2. Avoid carrying your checkbook with you unless it's absolutely necessary: I never carry checks here. Mr. Rant only has one or two checks on him at a time. I just assumed (making an ass our of U and ME) that it is common to not take the whole checkbook. So now I get anxious when I only have one, not that there is any more risk than there is at home.  I'm more of a check tease anyway. I fill it out and give it to someone only for them to realize that I misspelled Cinquenta or put the date where Rio de Janeiro goes or something like that. Damn foreigners.

3. Guard your social security number, birth date, and your mother's maiden name with extra care: Um, I think by law every piece of paper in Brazil, down to a personal note, is required to have your CPF (Brazilian SS#), birth date, and both parent's full names.

4. Avoid putting paid bills and anything that contains personal information and your signature in your home mailbox. Instead, take them to the Post Office or hand them to your mail carrier: Brazil has got this one covered via online payments, paying at the bank, or paying at the creepy lottery counters. And if you ask me why I find the lottery counters creepy I wouldn't be able to tell you. They are just weird little places.

5. Purchase a good paper shredder: Being a cost efficient person I went ahead and gave birth to two paper shredders. Seriously though, Mr. Rant has never been super anal about shredding. He also hardly throws any papers away. We have tax forms from 1991 for a company that doesn't even exist anymore. Apparently you never know when the Brazilian government is going to want to see some sort of official document from your past. At least it's hard for identity thieves to get into your home and find something useful in piles of crap. Btw, I'm calling the show "Hoarders" and reporting Brazil!

6. Never trust an email that asks you to click on a link from a company that may have any information about you: Duh

7. Forget taking surveys via telephone: I once answered the phone here in Rio de Janeiro and there was someone wanting me to do a survey. I went with it and they proceeded to ask me all about what electronics I had in my home. *Warning* Of course I lied and down played but then they asked for my address, for the survey of course. I told them I wasn't comfortable giving my address. They then asked for just my zip code. I said no as well since I know that my zip code in Brazil will tell them which street I live on and more or less what part of it. Note to self: be careful of anything on the phone in Brazil, especially if you are a foreigner. But don't be scared and have fun with it. If someone calls saying your husband has been in a car accident asks you what kind of car you have be creative. "He crashed our Hot Pink Mini-Cooper!" When they say yes you can then laugh in their face and hang up.

Read the entire article on protecting yourself from Identity Theft in the States here. 

All and all I think Brazil has a pretty safe system when it comes to protecting your identity. While I hate all the hoops, it is a good system. There is a reason why you have a chip in your bank card, are required to swipe it 300 times to take out R$5, and have to type in your password 3 or 4 times. Heaven forbid you try to take out a R$20, but it works. Official signatures, thousands of stamps on hundreds of official documents, and flimsy IDs all make the Brazilian world go around. 


  1. Yes, creepy lottery windows (I still don't understand why they are always so busy). Yes, swiping card 300 times to take out R$5. hahahah, and thanks for the advice about how to handle phone calls, that's good....

  2. Great Post!
    Now let's thank the Portuguese for the inheritance of the infamous "Cartorio" system that gives us all a hard time to prove that we are who we say we are...which makes identity theft a foreign concept in Brazil!! ;)


  3. I had my debit card cloned 4 times in 6 months here in Rio a few years back. Bank of America denied my claim on the fourth one. I had lost over $3,000 on that one alone. Eventually, they refunded my money but it took a few phone calls and some questions they did not want to answer, such as how can a card cloning thief withdraw more than my daily limit from a cash machine?

    I had stopped using cards everywhere except the local HSBC Bank across the street from where I lived. I was totally confounded as to how a thief could get each new card number and PW until one Sunday morning reading the O Globo I saw an article about a cloning device being found at the very same HSBC bank across the street, the device fit over the top of the card reader on the cash machine, and the thieves had hidden a tiny camera above the cash machine keypad to read your password as you entered it.

    This type of card cloner is common in Rio, if you use a bank cash machine first try pulling off the card reader. If it comes off, or even rattles, don't use that cash machine! And, always cover your hand with a book, magazine or newspaper when entering your password at a cash machine.

    Brasil is notorious for scams. I shred everything, so much so I am on my second paper shredder. What cannot be shredded (too thin or too thick) is burned in the BBQ.

    One thing I like about Brasil is that you may carry a black and white copy of your ID, and leave the original at home. You must carry ID here, it is the law, but I never carry the original, the plasticized copy has worked fine at a few Lei Seca's and random "search the gringo with the pretty Brasilian girl" stops. Just the thought of trying to replace a lost ID here gives me a headache.

  4. I have heard about those machines and have had many friends have their cards cloned. One friend had hers cloned at Lojas Americanas by a worker.

    My rules: Never turn around if my car is out of my hand. Never let someone walk away with my card.

    Why the id thing?

  5. Indeed, never let a credit/debit card out of your sight. The ID thing?

  6. You not carrying your actual id. I carry my American Drivers license around or my Brazilian work book

  7. Ahhh. I carry a copy of my ID (Cedula de Identidade de Estrangeiro) but never the original. Getting that original took almost 4 years start to finish, it stays in its own shrine at home, temperature controlled, video monitored and dusted daily. A black and white (color copies of ID's are not permitted, so I have been told) copy has never raised an eyebrow. My copy is encased in plastic, which is great for the occasional trip through the wash machine.

    By the way, if I haven't alredy mentioned it, your blog is outstanding! Rio is full of interesting and often hilarious differences from the rest of the planet, that is a big reason why I chose to live here. You have a talent for sharing the good, the bad and everthing else, all with a sense of humor. You have written a book here, just organize the chapters and publish!

  8. I think that when a Cedula de Indentidade de Estrangeiro is requested due to a Brazilian national marrying a foreigner and said couple is still married after the card is actually emmitted and delivered then the couple should repeat their vows in a ceremony and open it up to the public. It would promote family values and the importance of perseverance.

    The same policy should apply in the United States.

    One understands why both the US and Brazil are such Christian nations since both countries are made up of immigrants and to finally become a full fledged citizen, via marriage or otherwise, requires the patience of Christ.

    By the way PTRio good on you for dusting that shrine.