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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Answer to Stopping Identity Theft Rests With the Individual, Not the Commercial Establishment

Identity theft’s biggest problem in junk mail can be defined in four words: unsolicited credit card offers. Our household has received over two feet of them—when stacked one on top of the other—in the last couple of years. Yes, I saved them for this blog and plan to shred them now. I suggest you do the same with all of yours. If you don’t, your unfriendly neighborhood dumpster diver could be on the way to the bank for your identity.

And, by the way it is yours. An interesting blog, Schneier on Security, talks about the identity theft crisis by stating: “identity is not a possession that can be acquired or lost…one thing about a person that cannot be stolen.” Although we are talking a matter of semantics here because I agree that ownership is not the answer, your name and personal data should be securely under your control.

As stated in one of my earlier posts, the legal profession’s Black’s Law Dictionary has a listing, “legal name,” as applying to the individual. The connotation is that there is something officially legitimate about a person’s name. Continuing, the reference work says: “It is the distinctive characterization in words by which one is known and distinguished from others…” The conclusion one might reach here is that your name, particularly when attached to a unique address and personal data, is sacrosanct.

Schneier points out the fact that we have to “concentrate on preventing and detecting fraudulent transactions,” with which I also agree. However, soon after, he states “that any solution can’t involve the account holders,” which, of course, is you. Here, I disagree. It should be entirely up to the individual, and that is the reason for my grass roots effort to pass federal legislation to give you 100% control over your name and personal data. It could be a technological challenge to give you this right, but it will settle once and for all most privacy issues and most certainly the identity theft problem.

Another good blog on the subject is by Grant Laird; .Post details: Protect Yourself from Identity theft. It provides a thirteen step process to protect yourself… until we can convince Congress to give us the control. And yet another blog with a humorous approach: Megha’s A walk in the clouds.. on Identity theft. Although they didn’t get her identity, someone did steal Megha’s blog, including her tagline, sidebar sections, titles and more. But taken in stride, she writes it off to the fact that imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery.

Megha knows that doesn’t work in real-world identity theft. All that unfriendly dumpster diver has to do is retrieve your discarded credit card application with your name and address, spend a few minutes online and get your Social Security number. There are at least three sources that I checked out that range in price from $35.00 to $139.00. By the way, the additional personal data available is obscenely unlimited, but I’m not going to mention that or the SS# outlets, for obvious reasons.

In my concept for control, the ID thief makes an application for a credit card in your name. This incident raises a flag in the federally legislated database I’ve named NPD-ID, short for name and personal data. The flag initiates an emergency e-mail or telephone call to you that notifies you of the transaction. Your response is to deny the issuance of the card and everybody goes on about their business. You can read all about this procedure in my earlier post of June 9: Junk Mail 101: My Solution for Personal Data Loss.

Obviously, any efforts possible would be taken to catch the ID thief, but the primary purpose of protecting you from identity theft is the successful conclusion we’re after. In the coming weeks, I will be contacting members of Congress who are sympathetic to consumer causes. Why don’t you e-mail your representatives and let them know what you think?


Anonymous said...

My idenity was stolen by a family member. This member has access to personal information. I read your 12 recommendations to control identity theft. They are a joke.

A national idenity system is the only solution. The government/IRS/Medicare should have basic information that is accessible by everyone.

Jack E. Dunning said...

Sorry about the problem with your identity theft. However, if you had had control over your name and personal data, like I recommend, even a family member could not have stolen it.

Jack E. Dunning

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kerry said...

good to see a blog dealing with credit card issues. Credit cards are a necessity in Western Life. Sadly they can be one of our biggest liabilities. I have a site dealing with credit card management. You might like to take a look