One of the first lessons you learn in college is not to give the cops your right name. Thus, caught while crossing the road with the red light on, and asked for my name, I said, "Leo Tolstoy". That sounds like a real name, especially if you help the cop by spelling it out. That seems to lend it authenticity, as if you are apologising for a name that is difficult to spell.

As a bonus, you come across as honest because why would you not have said "John Smith" which is easier to spell, and seems to be the name of about

90 per cent of all rule-breakers.

So imagine my surprise when a college-going nephew broke the family tradition by giving a cop his right name, and further explained where birthmarks could be found on him. This is the kind of honesty that has landed people in jail.

I periodically get messages from my bank asking me not to do the following: share my ID with a casual stranger, boast about my PIN or try and figure out someone else’s PIN. Not satisfied, my bank also tells me that my password is weak and should not be shared with anyone, suggesting perhaps that passwords that are strong may be pasted on our foreheads for others’ benefit.

Over the years, therefore, I have come to the following conclusions. I will not share anything about myself with anybody. At a party, someone came up to me and introduced himself, then waited for a significant moment to give me a chance to tell him my name. But no. I lied. "I am Steve", I said, sounding like a former Australian cricket captain. When I am asked for my phone number, I usually juggle the digits, and if the same person asks within two minutes, he gets two different numbers.

I read about identity theft and often walk around without my glasses, without which I can’t see anything, simply to confuse the person planning to steal my identity. He will make the mistake of not wearing glasses and walk into a trap. I put on accents to throw people, and often say, "You’ve got the wrong number," even when it is my phone that is being called by a friend. You can’t be too careful, after all.

I fully sympathise with Woody Allen who said his one regret in life is that he isn’t somebody else. If I were somebody else, no one would steal my identity. Who steals my purse steals trash, said Shakespeare, but he that filches my good name robs me of that which not enriches him.

In my case it is the reverse. My purse enriches, my name-stealer steals trash.

More from Suresh Menon:

A tale of time travel: waiting for the 11th century and King Canute

Why you can’t lose weight any more

Friendships forged in fire alarms