The Washington Post has a great article on the growing problem of identity theft.
Identity theft is perhaps the most glaring symptom of the ills that have accompanied the data revolution of the 1990s. Bounced checks. Loan denials. Harassment from debt collectors. Victims of identity theft -- and there are millions of them -- are often haunted by the consequences for years.
Some government officials estimate that as many as 750,000 people a year are victimized. Others think that number is way too low. Last month Gartner Inc., a business research group, estimated that 7 million Americans have fallen prey to identity thieves in the past year alone, an extraordinary figure mirrored by a new survey from Privacy & American Business, an industry-funded think tank. Another study, by Star Systems, a company that facilitates the majority of U.S. ATM transactions, suggests that almost 12 million Americans in all, or about one in 19 adults, have been hit by such fraud.
One of the tales of identity theft has a Washington DC think tank manager worrying that he'd be arrested for murder because of murders committed by someone using his identity.
Bergin explained the warrant meant that he, the real Michael Berry, could be picked up for murder. The law enforcement computers would tell officers they were looking for a black man. But cops are so used to getting reports marred by mistakes, she said, they might ignore that detail if they had the right name.
The article is worth reading in full. As electronic information acquisition and transmission becomes steadily easier to do we are going to be faced with the problem that it is going to become just too easy to gather the key pieces of information needed to pull off identity theft. We need the widespread adoption of reliable biometric means of identification. We also need legal changes to put more responsibility on financial institutions to prevent identity theft. A person suffering under the consequences of identity theft has limited means by which to put a stop to it while financial institutions hand out key information far too readily while simultaneously making too little effort to verify identity.
If we count the faking of sender email addresses the commission of identity theft even more common than this article reports. I'm currently getting a large number of 100k+ email messages on one of my email accounts and many of the messages appear to be bounces of email by spam filters on other pop servers. Someone is sending out 100k sized junk mail using my email address as the return address.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 August 20 12:15 AM Surveillance Society|