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Ah, the Life of Riley (Till Riley Finds Out)

By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; Page C02

Do you know your name? Good. Now, do you know that a lot of other people whom you don't know also know your name?

Congress held hearings last week on what is known as data theft. This is how it works:

A company that has all sorts of information on you sells its service to anyone who pays for it. All the information on you, including medical records, assets, debts and your lifestyle, is collected in the company's database.

Someone, possibly a car dealer, wants to know all about you. The trouble is, you don't know what they have on you in their database.

Moving on, a fake client may use the service to get information on you for, let's say, a mean divorce case or an eviction lawsuit.

In many states, the data company must tell you what information it is giving out on you. Obviously, since it is selling millions of names, mistakes are made. I found this out when Barney Nelson called me and laughingly said, "Someone stole my name."

"You should be furious," I said.

"Au contraire. I requested all the information that the NamePlex people were handing out on me. The company sent me the record of another Barney Nelson."

"Why didn't you call attention to the error?"

"Because that Barney is far more interesting than I am. The other Barney makes $500,000 a year, has a home in Palm Beach, a penthouse in New York and a 78-foot yacht that he keeps in Monte Carlo."

I said, "He sounds like your kind of guy."

"There's a lot more. He has his suits made in Italy, his shoes in London and his shirts in Paris."

"You certainly don't dress like the other Barney."

He answered, "Barney is a swinger. He was married three times, and over a period of three years had five mistresses."

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