Archive for December, 2010

A funny quote for my uncle, Hal Rubinstein

“. . when we consider a stallion of the century, we refer to Rubinstein.”

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Episode 42: In Which Best Practices Prevent Identity Theft

A crazy thing just happened to me!

I got a letter from Capital One saying that they’d received a credit card application from a different address, so they wanted me to verify whether it was me. That’s alarming, and even more worrisome was its age: I’m bad about reading low-priority mail, so this letter had been sitting around for at least a week before I got to it.

As a cautious citizen, I followed the instructions and called the number to tell them the application was fraudulent. They asked for my social security number so they could refer to the application. I didn’t want to give it out, and I said so, so they asked for a 17-digit code on the letter, but there wasn’t one. Though I should have been worried that they wanted my SSN, I wasn’t. Fortunately, best practices said I must not give them my SSN, so I told them I’d call back on a verified-good phone number from the Capital One web site.

The Capital One website doesn’t list the number 866-927-7875. A search for that number only turns up a few pages about how 866-927-7875 is a scam number … or real phone number. I almost gave scammers my personal information … or not!

In the end, I dodged a bullet not by trusting my instincts (which said this was probably fine), but by relying on best practices and requiring verification even of the phone number on the official-looking letter.

[Edit at 4:32p.m.] Never mind, it turns out that the letter really was from Capital One, and when I called the number listed on their website, they confirmed it. I don’t know why their 866 number isn’t listed on the internet anywhere, and their practice of asking people for their SSNs immediately is highly suspicious, but it seems to be real. I find it confusing.

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Failblog learns about hang gliders

This video shows why you need speed when you do a loop in a hang glider. At the end, you see the guy come down on his parachute (that’s the line trailing up in the video), so it’s a survivable outcome, but really he should’ve started with more speed.

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All the cool kids are made of arsenic

Nasa has found bacteria in Mono Lake that don’t just tolerate arsenic, but actually use it in place of phosphorus!

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