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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pretexting Is Just the Latest Buzzword, Not the Problem

The Problem Is Who Warehouses Your Names and Personal Data

Yes, “pretexting” is another unwanted complication in the identity crisis, but the real problem is the data brokers that aggregate your names and private information into a neat bundle and sell it to the information brokers that do the pretexting. To name the biggest, ChoicePoint, Acxiom, LexisNexis, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. There are hundreds more smaller companies, and the Big Six are not only the biggest, but, in most cases, the ones who collect the personal data and disseminate it to the others.

Abysmal Track Record in Accuracy

In a study by the Privacy Activism group, they found inaccuracies in 67% of Acxiom consumer reports, 73% for ChoicePoint. This included errors in basic data such as name, Social Security number, address and phone number. The Big Three Credit Bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, had mixed results. Rated as a group, not individually, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that 25% of the Big Three credit reports had errors serious enough to deny credit. Overall, the mistake level was 79%. A Federal Reserve Bank study in 2005 of mistakes reported by consumers in their credit reports was in a range of from 20 to 40 percent.

Your Private Information Available Worldwide

When you “Google” information brokers—as distinguished from data brokers—using “quotes,” you get a total of 319,000, with 90 in the U.S., 243 in Europe, and 100 in Australia. That leaves the remaining some 318,500 distributed throughout the rest of the world. If a Nigerian information broker was pretexting in America, he would most likely have to get his data from one of the Big Six data brokers. You may remember that the perpetrator of the data breach at ChoicePoint that opened the identity crisis in February of 2005 was Nigerian-born Olatunji Oluwatosin. And, it isn’t clear if one of the Big Six would release private information to a pretexter of Nigerian origin, because they don’t identify their clients.


The data brokers will continue to collect every piece of your personal data they can, and sell it to any information broker they want until you put a stop to it by demanding federal legislation that will give you control over your name and private information. The elections are coming. Now is the time to contact Congressional representatives: House of Representatives; Senate.

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