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Friday, April 11, 2008


Back to 2006 and the raids on companies that had hired illegal immigrants, and how this impacts on identity theft today. Called Operation Wagon Train, which could be interpreted as a bit derogatory, Homeland Security found 1,282 individuals, 65 of which were arrested on charges that included ID theft. In a USA Today article, Michael Chertoff said, "This is not only a case about illegal immigration, which is bad enough, It's a case about identity theft and violation of the privacy rights and the economic rights of innocent Americans." I wasn’t aware the Bush administration cared about the privacy rights of Americans. Earlier in the year, 1,187 illegal workers were arrested at IFCO Systems, a company that makes pallets. Chertoff used W’s favorite scare tactic on national security citing potential terrorist activity as a threat against our safety. But this time it is a valid point, because insurgents could use stolen identities to board airplanes. In my concept of granting individuals control over their personal data, a system of checks and balances could be incorporated to trigger a validation check when the ticket is purchased. When contacted, and if the real name-holder did not buy the ticket, the impostor could be arrested at the gate, if not before. In The Christian Science Monitor, Julie Myers, asst. sec. of Homeland Security—certainly not an identity theft expert—does say she thinks illegal immigration “may be a driving force behind this growth,” [in identity theft]. The article also mentions a couple of men living in Phoenix, who came into the country illegally, but gained legal status. However, the two of them are now in the business of helping newly arriving illegal immigrants to get fake documents. It works like this: A coyote calls looking for papers for workers he has smuggled in. One of the Phoenix guys contacts the false document person and has the goods within 45 minutes. It’s so blatant that sometime these people even have business cards. Well meaning perhaps, but at the same time it provides the opportunity for a terrorist to slip across the border and take advantage of these guys’ good will. And that is not acceptable. In May of 2005 in Mississippi, Cedric Carpenter and Lamont Ranson were caught trying to sell fake IDs to members of Abu Sayyaf, a Philippines-based Islamist terrorist group. To give you an idea of the vastness of this problem, the Castorena family organization of Mexico’s organized crime families ran a fraudulent documents ring that controlled cells in 33 U.S. states until a lieutenant, 50 members and the leader, Pedro Castorena-Ibarra, were caught. I doubt seriously if this bunch screened prospective customers to weed out terrorists. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the bogus document business that supports the identity thieves by providing false identification. Like the ID crooks themselves, you will never stifle this business, but you can thwart their actions by giving the consumer control over their sensitive data, which makes illegitimate IDs worthless. Next post: More from Arizona on this issue.

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