“How do I know you are who you say you are?”
Over on Alan's blog he mentions that banks are training us to be insecure.
This is a hard problem to solve. The population at large can well understand that somebody could phone them and say "hi, I'm from blah-blah bank", but the assumption is that they won't.
This initial assumption of trust is what makes it easy to do business with each other, easy to have a conversation. But it also makes it easy for people to take advantage. Kevin Mitnick's book on the subject, The Art of Deception, is a great read. It's full of horror stories of how perfectly normal, smart, people are duped by simple things like "but I knew who hew was, he phoned the other day".
No, I know I'm a freak - I've used "I Like Cheese" to ward off tele-marketers - so I simply ask the bank for the 3rd and 5th letters of their password. It usually goes something like this:
"Hi, this is Samantha, I'm calling from blah-blah bank. Is that Mr Styles"
"Yep, what can I do for you?"
"I need to check some details on your account, but first I need to ask you some security questions. Can I have the first line of your address?"
"Sure, but first I need to make sure you're who you say you are. Can I have the third and fifth letters from your password, please?"
"Well, you called me, so I don't know who you are until you answer some security questions. Can I have the third and fifth letters from your password please?"
"I'm sorry sir, I don't understand what you mean."
"Well, I need to know who you are before I can give you any of my details."
"oh, ok, I'm Samantha from blah-blah bank."
"Great, can I have the third and fifthe letters from your password please?"
"erm, I don't have a password sir, what is it you mean?"
"Well, you should have received a telephone banking password in the post in order to access your customer, that's me. I need you to tell me the third and fifth letters from that password, without revealing the whole password to me, before I can give you any details."
"ok, I don't have that password"
"ok, perhaps you can email then?"
"sure, I'll do that"
Of course, by the end of the call the conversation has slowed to an incredulous and confused drawl, not the chipper, bright young thing that started off. I know, it's sad; I'm a freak, but it makes me laugh.