Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guest Post - Nick Volpe - Identity Theft - 500K American impacted annually

Nick Volpe is a Spring Semester Cybersecurity Research Analyst at Fortalice®, LLC.  He is a student at Immaculata University.

Research Outline  

Topic: Stolen Identity
Date: 2/23/10 

TEASER/TITLE: Don’t be one of the 500,000 Americans that will have their identities stolen this year! 

SUMMARY PARAGRAPH: Personal information and the privacy of that information has always been an issue. At the same time, there have always been exploiters of that information and privacy that goes along with it. As technology advances, both information and privacy gets stronger and much more complex and the methods used by thieves must catch up to the technology. According to CBS News, this year 500,000 Americans will have their identities stolen with up to $4 billion in damages. 

(List 3-5 bullets)
  • Popular ways identity thieves are stealing personal information:
    • Dumpster diving – getting information out of the trash
    • Skimming – using a device to steal your credit or bank card number
    • Phishing – using trickery usually in the form of SPAM e-mail or Pop-up solicitations to get a victim to reveal personal information
    • Change of address – using a change of address form to divert personal mail to another location
    • General theft – stealing electronics as well as wallets and purses to gather personal information
Theft is always a prevalent issue in any society. From mass looting to pick pocketing, criminals come up with new and sneaky ways to make money and satisfy their greed. When it comes to identity, thieves find it to be a very comfortable and sometimes easy way to steal assets from an unknowing victim. All it takes is a phone call with a fake name or some social engineering to convince a company that you are another person.
There are many laws afforded to us by our government that try to protect our right to privacy in terms of identity. Some of those laws include the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which were put in place to help American consumers gain control over their information.
However, this is still not enough. Protecting oneself from identity theft requires effort and proactive measures.
(3-5 Bullets that talk about any future trends noted for beyond 2010)
  • Companies using more and more factors of authentication to protect the identity of their customers/clients (e.g. banks using images and key fobs as a form of authentication)
  • Government pressing harder and stricter laws for companies to protect data using multi-factor authentication such as biometrics
Identity theives are a new kind of criminal. With vast resources like the internet, they are able to gain valuable personal information on a person with a small amount of effort if the victim is not careful enough. They are using new tactics like phishing and skimming as well as older tactics including dumpster diving and theft. Regardless of how the identity is stolen, a person must be proactive with their own identity and personal information including mail, financial information, and government documents.
Many Americans have had or will have their identity stolen at some point and it will cost them billions of dollars and massive amounts of time cleaning up from it. The cheapest, easiest, and most effective way of recovering from identity theft is never letting it happen by being very cautious and following all recommendations. Consumers must safeguard their information as best as possible in order to keep their identity to themselves.
  • You may be a victim of stolen identity if:
    • You detect fraudulent charges or unknown payments on your financial accounts such as bank accounts and credit card accounts
    • You suspect or know that you aren’t receiving all your mail, especially statements
    • You find accounts have been opened in your name without your knowledge
    • You are confused or suspicious about information appearing on your credit report
  • How to recover from/get out of identity theft:
    • Contact your local police department to report the crime
    • Keep documents of all contact with financial institutions and authorities
    • Place a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit report at all 3 major credit bureaus
    • Monitor closely all credit accounts and contact the creditor if fraudulent activity is suspected
    • Use a credit monitoring service as a third party method of getting yourself out of identity theft
    • Change all your PINs/passwords and close accounts that have been accessed fraudulently
    • Contact the DMV, U.S. State Department, the FTC, your local postal inspector, Social Security Administration (SSA) to make sure other documents or assets haven’t been utilized in your name
  • Tips for protecting personal identity:
    • Be aware of what information is out there about identity theft so that you can protect your own
    • Sign your name on all credit and debit cards and only carry the ones you need on your person
    • Shred documents with personal information including social security number
    • Get a free copy of personal credit report annually from all 3 major credit bureaus
      • Equifax
      • TransUnion
      • Experian
    • Protect and encrypt personal information stored on laptops and mobile electronics such as smartphones and PDAs
    • Always confirm the use of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates on sites where you make financial transactions or deal with financial or personal information like e-merchants and online banking
  1. "Fighting Back Against Identity Theft." Federal Trade Commission. FTC, Web. <http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html>.
  2. "Stolen Identity: A Consumer Nightmare." Infoplease. Pearson Education, Web. <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0903927.html>.
  3. "What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen." Nolo. Web. <http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-29691.html>.
  4. "If Your Identity Is Stolen." BBB Online. Better Business Bureau, Web. <http://www.bbbonline.org/idtheft/stolenid.asp>.
  5. Lipka, Mitch. "6 Signs Your Identity May Have Been Stolen." Wallet Pop. 16 Oct 2009. AOL, Web. <http://www.walletpop.com/fraud/eim/article/6-signs-your-identity-may-have-been/721005>.
  6. "Learning Center: Facts and Statistics." Equifax. Equifax, Web. <http://www.equifax.com/cs/Satellite/EFX_Content_C1/1172182371408/5-1/5-1_Layout.htm>.
  7. Reynolds, George. Ethics in Information Technology. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2007. 105-131. Print. 
"More than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years.... To deal with the problem, consumers reported nearly $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses."
-The New York Times

"Stealing someone's identity to acquire -- and use -- new credit cards has become one of the most popular white-collar crimes today, according to fraud investigators from across the country."
-Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

"This year alone more than 500,000 Americans will be robbed of their identities...with more than $4 billion stolen in their names."

"In one notorious case of identity theft, the US Department of Justice reported that the criminal incurred over $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and hand guns in the victim's name all the while calling his victim to taunt him."
-US Department of Justice Web site

"The number of identity thefts in the U.S. has skyrocketed during the past 15 months."

"According to a convicted ID thief in Denver, CO, "On a good day I could make $5,000 in cash and another $7,000 to $8,000 in merchandise..."

"A recent report on identity theft warned that there is likely to be "mass victimization" of consumers within the next two years. The report said consumers should be extra careful to monitor all their financial transactions for unexplained account activity, withdrawals, or fund transfers."
-The Gartner Group, a technology research group

"Every 79 seconds, a thief steals someone's identity, opens accounts in the victim's name and goes on a buying spree."

"Experts report that a victim can spend anywhere from six months to two years recovering from identity theft."

"Most people don't find out they have been a victim of a stolen identity until they are turned down for a loan or credit card. A copy of their credit report explaining the denial may unveil weeks or months of fraud."

Source: Equifax

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