Number one in Identity Theft?

How do you become known as the #1 bank in America for helping protect people from Identity Theft?
Well, it’s quite simple actually.
The Javelin Strategy and Research firm, which evaluated 24 major banks, awarded the top three banks similar marks for their ability to help protect customer data. Here’s some of the strong points, from the last year or so, that you should consider if you wish to be among the top three.
First, it would be a good idea to lose 2.6 million customer records belonging to Circuit City credit card holders. Accidentally take the records to a landfill and bury them.
Next, you could find yourself among the best by allowing several data breaches to take place. Accidently leave digital doors open, or even physical doors, so that your customers’ information can leave with a criminal. Make sure that when you’re shipping information, you use a company that will lose data tapes for 145,000 government and military cardholders.
After that, make sure that your executives have limitless access to sell customer information for personal and corporate gain, and while you’re at it, incentivize employees to open new accounts in the name of your customers.

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New York Times Data Breaches article

The New York Times pubished an article yesterday which has a kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to the data theft which has been taking place at companies around the United States and Canada.

A survey of 484 United States-based information technology departments within business or governmental organizations…found, among other things, that more than half of corporate laptops contained unprotected sensitive data, that one in 10 laptops is stolen and that 97 percent of those are never recovered. The study also found that 81 percent of firms reported that an “electronic storage device such as a laptop” specifically containing sensitive or confidential information had been lost or stolen in the past year.


If nothing else, the Commerce Department can be comforted by the fact that its loss of 1,137 laptops over the last five years is hardly unusual.


This kind of toungue-in-cheek comment is sort of the way I approach identity theft. The problem is so big, and the misinformation in the marketplace so prevalent, that, as the NYT states; “the volume of lost consumer data remains almost comically epidemic.”
The biggest problem is that our social security numbers are so valuable, and so universally used.
But that’s not going to change any time too soon. The lobbies for insurance, credit, and the banking industry as a whole are simply too large, and too powerful, for any smaller initiative to achieve any really valuable change in the way our social security numbers are used. (I will be talking about an interesting patent tomorrow though.)

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Companies marketing under guise of Identity Theft

So there are some companies out there that are marketing their products under the guise that their services will help you prevent Identity Theft.
Actually, there are HUNDREDS of companies marketing their “solutions” as things that will help you with Identity Theft.
Though there are many, we are going to pick on just two today.
Product #1
Data Safe Wallets:
From the Press Release:
“Its new line of DataSafe Wallets(TM) for men and women (are) designed to protect the new ‘smart card’ credit cards from wireless identity theft.”
Well, yah, I guess you could say that you would be protecting your already encrypted smart card by having a wallet shielded with some sort of RF-blocking material. While this is a good idea in concept, it doesn’t really address Identity Theft. All it does is protect the cards in your wallet. Since the vast majority of Identity Theft doesn’t occur by someone grabbing your information wirelessly from an encrypted data stream, these wallets aren’t really helping people with the problem of identity theft.
Overall impact on helping people with Identity Theft? Minimal

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The Identity Theft Task Force at work

The Identity Theft Task Force has gone to work in Washington, offering some really good ideas on what should be done to curb and slow the growth of Identity Theft.
One interesting point from the article at Information Week is this:

Victims of identity theft should be allowed to seek restitution from defendants for time spent undoing damage from the offense, according to interim recommendations issued Tuesday by a federal task force on ID theft.

This is an excellent suggestion. There is, however, a challenge with it. That challenge is to ask the question, who is the defendant?

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Southern California Students Lose Information to Identity Theft

The daily Trojan, which is the Student Newspaper for the University of Southern California, today is reporting that the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating 16 USC Identity Theft crimes.
What’s interesting is that between August 4th and September 5th, someone used student, faculty, and staff account, to make unauthorized ATM Withdrawls, purchase things fraudulently on the Internet, and open unauthorized credit card accounts. Peter Tom, the vice president of member services for the USC Credit Union, says that he didn’t know about the LAPD investigation, and doesn’t really know why this could be taking place.

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Identity Theft Is Okay When used for a job? New York Times Article

The New York Times ran a large article spread today covering something we have been talking about for a long time: Identity theft isn’t just about financial gain.
Oh really? You mean that those cute Citibank ads aren’t really explaining the whole problem of Identity Theft to me?

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Wake up Madison. Dumpster Diving is the least of Identity Theft.

Hello? Is anybody paying attention in Madison, Wisconsin? The amount of misinformation coming from the news media, concerning Identity theft, constantly amazes me.
A case in point? This article on a Madison, Wisconsin TV “News” station’s web site.
They tell you that “While dumpster diving is still the number one source of identity theft, scammers are getting more creative.”
Dumpster diving is #1?

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Just how does one commit Identity Theft?

There are plenty of ways Identity Theft can be committed.
One way is by stealing people’s credit/debit card information. This can be done with a simple little device called a Card Reader or a skimmer. You’ve seen them before in grocery stores and at the gas station, but perhaps you never knew that they could be purchased, and be made small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. And if you didn’t know, a quick Google search would give you plenty of search results which would tell you what you needed to know about card readers. Take a look at a result I got
And hey, if you really had the technical know-how, you could get instructions on how to build a card reader.
http://camelspit.org/handyswipe/

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Identity Theft Insurance – need or not?

News 12 out of Arizona ran an article talking about insurances you don’t need. On their list was Identity Theft Insurance. They say that Identity Theft Insurance “does not include unauthorized charges or funds siphoned from accounts.” What they recommend you do instead is check your credit reports regularly.
And yet, the federal government has now authorized blanket purchase agreements to two credit bureaus (Equifax and Experian), Bearak Reports, and a company called “Identity Force”, to provide policies, using taxpayer dollars, to people whose information is stolen from agencies of the Federal Government.

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