Think You’re Safe from Snoops? Think Again…

provate detective

Speaking of privacy, there was a big hack job recently and folks were advised to change their pins…I haven’t changed mine yet, for I have too damn many of them….(7 pages in all.)

I’ve got friends who say: “I don’t want to be on Facebook because I don’t want my personal information shared,” and I say:  They’re kidding themselves if they think that they control who gets sensitive information about them. Why?  The one area of personal information always considered sacrosanct—especially in our parents’ and grandparents’ day—was salary.  Today, that information is accessible to anyone if the one queried about is in the state retirement system.

Why?  The public has a vested interest in knowing…They bankroll part of that retiree’s income.

OK, I gotta admit:  I was shocked.  I submitted a piece to an editor some years back whereby I made the argument that we Rhode Island teachers paid a whole lot more into the retirement  system than other states did, and the pension, with COLA, was our fair return.  I argued against the loss of that 3% raise that kicked in after our third year retired–the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment.)

The amount was agreed to by both sides; actuarial experts approved; they believed it  do-able…the formula was years in the making. 

I argued (at the State House, where hearings occurred just before they took our COLA):  If financial experts established a flawed model, why do we retired teachers pay the price years later?

But the editor (and legislators) didn’t buy my version.  He reminded me that since I retired in 1997 (he’d apparently looked me up on that state retirees’ website), he knew that I’d make 1.3 million (if COLA remained—which it hasn’t) if I lived and collected to my projected age. His point? I’d make more money (while retired) than I made during my career.

I countered with:  As Rhode Island teacher, I paid in more than other teachers in other state retirement systems (that’s a fact).  Furthermore, my money was supposed to earn enough interest over the decades to fulfill the contractual agreement.

I brought up related issues:  As single Mom (divorced once…widowed twice), I took all sorts of second jobs (while teaching) and my deductions in those made me eligible for Social Security benefits.  What happened when I reached the age to collect?  Since I get a municipal pension, via a city that never paid into Social Security, the WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) kicked in and I lost most of my Social Security earned benefit.  Instead of $450 a month, I get $150.

What about all those who got fat pensions for no…or little… work?  They’re the ones who infuriate all, and little can be done to change that.  The rest of us are victims of administrative malfeasance, in-house chicanery, and a robbing of the pension fund by those undeserving others (you know, the ones on beaches, collecting fat pensions, despite the fact they never paid….or paid a pittance.)

But I began this article talking about people’s fear of personal information being “out there.” Yes, it’s out there—in a big way. That’s why my Facebook page has trucker ads appearing on the right, in the margins (Facebook knows I write the Grandpa and the Truck books for kids, so they load my Grandpa and the Truck page with ads tailored to that interest…See I gave them that information about me when I created the Grandpa and the Truck Facebook page (“Like” us if you like…)

Proving this another way, folks can look up the value of anyone’s house in Rhode Island at  Once on site, go to “Realtor Tools” and scroll down to “Tax Assessors” then highlight city or town where person lives.  When that comes up, hit “Enter Database” and provide address or person’s name. You’ll find other delicious facts, too, such as assessed value, square footage…see pictures…

But it’s the pension money folks earn that’s the most telling of today’s absence of privacy.

Finally, today’s personal information website tools abound, and much of our heretofore personal information is accessible to anyone with a computer (I listed those for Rhode Island; I’m sure others exist for others’ home states.) Just put in “state retirement pensions North Carolina” (if you’re a Tarheel, ) in your browser and see what comes up.

For that reason, you may want to reconsider joining Facebook; most folks can pretty much find whatever they want to know about you using these website sleuthing devices.  You might as well control the Facebook part.…Here’s the site for RI state employees’ pensions….

***If you wish to buy the Grandpa and the Truck books for little ones 4-8 (boys and girls), go to As author, I will personalize (to your specifications) and sign…Shipping is free…How cool is that? If you wish to purchase by check, let me know that, too (a reader just apprised me of a need to include this option and I thank her.)  I’ll tell you how to send check, if you e-mail me at…

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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