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?
It’s not like I expect the average news person writing this story to be an expert on Identity theft. But a little background research would help them to better serve the people of Madison. Reading this article makes me think that it is from 2003, but it’s actually shown as a “current” piece of news they have posted on their web site.
A very quick glance at the 2005 statistics on Identity Theft from the Federal Trade Commission would tell you that the #1 source of actual Identity Theft is from friends and family applying for new credit accounts in the name of the victim.
The #1 way people get the information is by taking it from the people they know.
But even if you didn’t know that, you could look at the Privacy Rights clearinghouse Chronology of Data Breaches since the ChoicePoint incident and discover that as of Sept.1, 91,064,388 pieces of information have been stolen or lost.
Could it be that 91 MILLION+ pieces of stolen data are more likely to lead to Identity Theft than some people getting together and grabbing records that were tossed out behind the doctor’s office?
This article goes on to quote some “expert” who advises that the best way to protect your identity is to “get a copy of your credit report, regularly check your credit card and bank statements, and always keep your receipts.”
Madison, how’s that going to help me when the Veteran’s Administration loses my information? Let’s role play here a bit: I just checked my credit report yesterday. Someone uses my information to apply for credit in my name today. This Identity Thief uses my good credit to receive a credit card, with my name on it. They receive that card at an address I’ve never lived at, so I can’t possibly know about this credit account, and by law, I can’t get another free credit report for 4 months. How will my having checked my credit report yesterday help me today?
When I get pulled over for a routine traffic stop, give over my driver’s license, and find out that “I” skipped town after being bailed out of jail, and I am now being arrested for something I never did, in a state I’ve never been to, how will your expert’s advice help me?
The “expert” advises that you should “also, never give out personal information over the phone.”
That will be really helpful when the University of Colorado loses my information to a hacker, as they did not once (on July 21, 2005), not twice (again on Aug. 2, 2005), but three times (again on Aug. 19, 2005).
Madison, not to be overly critical, but you might want to do a little more research on such a big issue before attempting to help your viewing public. They really need good information on identity theft, which in this case you unfortunately did not provide.