Many years ago I remember hearing about a story where someone had the battery stolen out of their car. A day or two later, a brand new car battery showed up on their doorstep, with a note apologizing. The heartfelt apology described how they were down on their luck and needed the battery to get to work to feed their 12 kids, or something along those lines, and in the envelope were two tickets to a local sporting event, to act as compensation for their trouble. The homeowners attend the sporting event, and return home to find their house robbed of all of their valuables. I’m not sure if that story is true or not — it could just be an urban legend — but today I read this story about a cruise ship employee who robbed the homes of vacationers. The moral here, of course, is to not make it public knowledge when you are going to be away from home.
But if we dig just a bit deeper into this, and acknowledge that this was a matter of personal privacy, the moral to me is, never give anyone your real address. Get a post office box and use it for everything. Because nobody needs to know where you live — that’s none of their business. Now I’ll concede that choosing this path will make your life a bit more difficult. Your dentist’s office will call you and demand your real address, claiming that too many people use post office box addresses to skip out on their bill. If you order something online and have it shipped, the company will demand a shipping address, because they have exclusive arrangements with UPS or FedEx, and they don’t ship to PO boxes. The worst one so far, though, is the DMV. The State of Missouri does not allow you to use a PO box on your driver’s license anymore. Apparently, in order to drive legally, you have to live somewhere. I called the Department of Revenue in Jefferson CIty and asked what do I do if I am homeless? Does that mean I can’t renew my license? The simple but painful answer is yes. Sorry homeless people — you can live in your car, you just can’t drive it anywhere!
Not to mention the bigger problem of what if I lose my wallet? Whoever finds it now knows where I live. What if my car is broken into and my wallet is stolen? The crook now knows where I live, and also which house the garage door remote works. Call it paranoia, but as the true story above illustrates, there are plenty of people out there looking to take advantage of this private, personal information, however they can get it, and I believe that businesses and government — most importantly government — are obligated to help us to protect it.