Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Who Am I?" (or, Who Was I?)

   I like the story of Les Mis.  I definitely like the musical.  I was not wild about the movies.  The book is definitely a good, and very long, read (or listen!).

   At it's core, Les Mis is a story about Identity Fraud!  It's the story of a man, seemingly wrongly convicted, who operates under a false identity in order to be able to live his life.  It's a common literary theme, used in stories like Martin Guirre, The Count of Monte Cristo and Matchstick Men.  In "olden times", Identity Fraud penalties were very serious. Today... not as much.  Last time we started a discussion of Identity Fraud - we'll continue our discussion of this topic.


   Breaches of online merchant websites and databases get a lot of media attention.  But there are many ways ID fraud is committed including:
  • Shoulder Surfing - this means someone looking over your shoulder, for example when you enter your PIN at an ATM
  • Dumpster Diving - it's amazing what people throw away
  • Mailbox theft - checks, financial statements and other sensitive documents get stolen from mailboxes
  • Stolen purse, wallet, laptop, tablet, phone - these all contain plenty of personal information
  • Social Engineering - be careful about what information you give out about yourself
  • Phishing - email or phone - con artists will call or email pretending to be your bank, law enforcement or other authority and ask you for information.
  • Social media - do you really know who your "friends" are?... there are all kinds of requests and information gathering schemes
  • Copy-cat websites - it's pretty easy for scam artists to create a fake site that looks just like your bank's website, perhaps with a misspelled URL like nationa1bank.com (that's a one instead of an L), and then collect the info you enter.
  • By known or unknown thieves! - some ID thieves know their victims.

   So many choices!

   This is hardly a new crime, nor is it a high-tech crime.  Confidence schemes have been around for a long time.  Technology can help facilitate the crime and does add some new methods.  But crimes like check fraud have been around as long as there have been checks.

   In the US, Identity Fraud was not a federal crime until 1998!

   So what do they want?
  • Social Security number
  • Full Name/Mother's maiden name
  • Bank Acct numbers
  • Credit Card numbers
  • Pre-approved credit applications
  • Blank checks
  • Medical/Insurance billing, accts and info
  • Passwords/encryption keys!
  • Other identifying numbers or info

   I'll wrap up this post with a few stats:
  • 15M victims per year - in the US
  • 100M at risk due to data breaches
  • Federal Trade Commission – top consumer complaint for 14 years!
  • 85% of incidents abuse of current accounts - this means making charges or withdrawing money from existing accounts the victim has
  • Total fraud costs up ($50B US)
  • $3500 mean fraud loss per victim

   Despite all the media hype, this is still more of an offline issue than online:
  • 44% lost or stolen wallets/purses
  • 16% auto burglary
  • 15% online
  • 12% home burglary
  • 9% “friendly theft” - this is where the victim knows the thief

   How your ID is being used:
  • New Account Fraud – credit cards, loans - this is one of the most dangerous issues in which the fraudster creates new accounts in your name
  • Existing Account Theft
  • ID misuse - in which a thief uses your identification in the commission of other crimes
  • Tax fraud
  • Medical fraud - using a fraudulent identity to receive prescriptions or other medical treatment.

   Hopefully all this bad news didn't get you down.  But there's hope!  We've admired the problem enough.  Next time we'll talk about what to do if you think you have been a victim of identity fraud.

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