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How to Live in Denmark

118 EpisodesProduced by Kay Xander MellishWebsite

Life as an international in Denmark, one of the world's most homogenous countries, isn't always easy. In Denmark’s longest-running English-language podcast, Kay Xander Mellish, an American who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade, offers tips for enjoying your time in “the world’s happiest co… read more


Danes & IT: Anyone can guess your CPR number

Ordinarily don’t get my technology news from the local newspaper sold by the homeless in Denmark, but I did this week.  First of all, I learned that you can pay your homeless newspaper seller by text message.  If you don’t have loose change, as I often don’t, you can send a text to the newspaper seller’s registration number, along with the amount you want to give him, and the seller gets paid right away. 

Secondly, I learned that some homeless people have iPhones.  (pause).  Not my particular seller, but another reader had written a letter to the editor of the newspaper saying he’d try to buy a paper the previous week, but his seller had been too wrapped up in his iPhone to pay attention to a potential customer. The letter writer was asking if it made sense to spend 20 crowns on a newspaper to help a man….who had a phone worth at least 2000 crowns.

The newspaper had a good response.  They said an iPhone was a perfect device for a homeless person.  It allowed him to keep all the information he needed in one place – government documents, health records, family photos.  And it was a way for him to get phone calls and emails related to housing or jobs.  I thought that was a very sensible approach.

Danes have a very sensible approach to IT in general.  

The CPR number is a national menace.

That said, I have a great fear that more cybercrime and identity theft is on the way to Denmark.  As those of you who live here know, the country’s IT systems are all based around something called the CPR – the central person register. Everyone has a CPR number, and you use it for everything – for banking, for the doctor, for school, for taking books out of the library.  My daughter used hers last week to sign up for a Bhangra Dance course during summer vacation. 

So, lots of people have your CPR, and if they don’t, it’s pretty easy to guess. Your CPR number is your birthday, plus the century your card was issued in, plus 2 random numbers, plus your gender.  Did you know that – men have uneven CPR numbers, and women have even numbers?  I did not, until I looked it up. 

Anyway, the CPR was probably high tech in 1968 when it was first introduced.  But now I think it’s a national menace.  Anyone who has your CPR can impersonate you.  So far it’s been mostly minimal damage. People give your CPR number when they get caught riding the S-train without a ticket.  Or people take out SMS loans using your CPR number.  But the potential for trouble is certainly large if the number that controls basically your entire life in Denmark is somehow hacked.  

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