Monday, October 24, 2005

Identity Theft or Credit Card Fraud?


The headline above links to a Joris Evers penned C|Net news story that downplays the seriousness of ID theft and the public fears that have increased over data breaches and theft. The focus of the article starts on the laptop stolen from the University of California at Berkeley in March, and stored on it was personal information on 98,369 graduate students or graduate-school applicants. Immediatly everyone was notified of the possibility of the thief being a Identity thief, when in fact, it appears that the guy just wanted a laptop.
In the months since, however, not a single case of stolen identity related to the incident has been reported. The laptop was recovered in September, and police believe that the thief was interested only in the computer, not in the information in its files.
It's hard to tell if the author of this news.com piece is playing to the credit card industry or just doesn't believe ID theft is a real issue. The three page piece goes on to discuss that the crime of Identity theft is holding steady, only the media is making it appear to be growing. Little substantial proof is offered of this though.

There is no doubt that data breaches, losses, thefts and hacks of sensitive personal and financial information has seriously compromised Americans' security and finanancial safety. Kowtowing to financial companies by making claims that ID theft is not increasing, is plain silly. Here's another quote from the article:
To assess the chances of falling victim to such crimes, consider these statistics: In 2003, 10 million U.S. residents were the victim of ID theft, according to the FTC; by comparison, in the same year, 20 million people got into a car crash, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
So the relevance there is, umm where? Wow. Let's now use the same logic to illustrate how really unimportant cancer deaths are since you have a higher chance of being in a car crash. Hmmm.

The article goes on to make distinctions between identity theft and identity fraud - admonishing victims for using the wrong phrase to apply to instances of fraud on existing accounts (identity fraud) versus the establishing of new accounts in the victims' name (Identity Theft). So we're more likely to be in a car crash and we are going to call it an accident instead of a crash? How about calling data security a train wreck? Well very few of those happen, so it must not be serious threat to most of us. Writer Evers appears to be a credit card industry pal in the C|Net staff who is using semantics and statistics to downplay the seriousness of security lapses at financial institutions and credit card companies. Maybe there is a credit card industry employee in the Evers family? Maybe a little credit added to the Evers cards?

There has been a spike in interest in paper shredders this year and industry sales are increasing. This is pointed out in the Evers piece, quoting John Fellowes, director for shredders at the company that bears his name. "The industry is up about 10 to 15 percent over the previous year." But the Evers follows up with the following:
But experts point out that, while shredding is smart, only 2.5 percent of ID theft cases last year was linked to dumpster diving. By contrast, 8 percent was traced back to the mailbox, a much cleaner way to find identifying information. Almost one-third of all fraud occurred because of a lost or stolen wallet.
Well I guess I'll toss the shredder and post my social security number online since I'm likely to be in a car crash anyway. Where is the logic here?

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posted by RealitySEO at 10:53 AM

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