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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Winding Down the Worst Year Ever in ID Theft

I started The Dunning Letter on April 19 of this year and this will be post number 46, probably the last for 2005. It all started with my concept that federal legislation should be passed, giving consumers control over their names and personal data, and they should be paid for its use.

In the nine-month period, many things have happened in the identity crisis arena, but nothing of substance that would solve the problem. If you read my last blog, “Government and Business Want to Convince You 2+2=5,” you know that Congressional leaders have once again dropped the ball by putting ID theft legislation on hold.

And then the Los Angeles Times ran an article recently by Joseph Menn, “Data Brokers Press for U.S. Law,” that clearly shows these data merchants are running scared with the state laws that are popping up, the most recent in New York. You know there is something wrong when the junk mail industry supports laws that will regulate its business. What galls me is the fact that the industry is apparently cock-sure this Congress will pass something weak enough not to hurt them, but strong enough to supersede the more stringent state laws.

The latest major event in the identity crisis fiasco is the plight of Eric Drew, from Seattle, Washington. Eric was fighting leukemia in a cancer center when a technician decided the patient probably wouldn’t make it, surmised he wouldn’t need his identity any longer, and promptly stole it from hospital records, opening several credit accounts in his name. Well, Mr. Drew fooled him on both counts. His health improved and Eric fought back to catch the thief. The technician, Richard Gibson, is being prosecuted under a new law passed to protect patients’ privacy. You can read about it on two sites: “Dateline: The lowest scam,” on MSNBC, and “Cancer Patient Catches ID Thief,” on

If you consider the millions of patient records in thousands of doctors’ offices, hospitals and medical centers nationwide—many with minimum security—you begin to understand how the Eric Drew incident occurred. Medical databases are one of the largest storehouses of private information in the country, most with Social Security numbers from the days when we readily gave them up. Now these institutions have created the perfect formula for ID theft.

Finally, have to mention what I consider to be the most bizarre news from 2005. ChoicePoint, the company who introduced the new wave of identity theft in 2005, with three incidents totaling almost 172 thousand account records lost, wants to "acquire" state DMV motor vehicle registration records for their client, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Actually, ChoicePoint already has them, something that will be covered in a futute blog) In a Los Angeles Times’ article, “Big Data Broker Eyes DMV Records,” by Michael Hiltzik, he reflects what probably most of us believe: “Given ChoicePoint’s history, should it be allowed anywhere near our motor vehicle records?”

Another piece in, “The Peter Principle Lives (and then some): ChoicePoint to get DMV Data?” takes us back to the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s when Dr. Lawrence Peter professed his belief that individuals will eventually be pushed to their highest level of incompetence, after which the competent few must deal with this inadequacy. It’s the primary reason I left corporate America years ago and never looked back.

You might also want to check Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog post, “Golden State Column: ChoicePoint and the Threat to Privacy,” where he also feels, “The real remedy is Congressional legislation…” He goes on to comment on ChoicePoint’s dual position of being both investigated by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer for the data breach, and at the same time awarded a contract worth over $845,000 to design a law enforcement database, also by Lockyer.

A sad year, 2005, but I am predicting that all this will change in 2006, when a fed-up public decides they won’t take it anymore. Join my grass-roots movement. Write your Congress person. Contact local TV, radio and newspapers. Tell them you want to see federal legislation passed that will give you control over your name and personal data. And, you want to be paid any time it is used.

Talk to you next year!

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