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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


If you have become a victim of identity theft, it’s your local police department that you turn to by filing an identity theft report as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You will no doubt have to give law enforcement your date of birth, which they will enter into the report, which could eventually become available to others. And that is the problem. Connected to your name and address—also in the report—your date of birth is one of the primary elements the crooks need to steal your identity.

In a recent article from the Arizona Republic, in some cases Phoenix Police censor critical personal data, such as your date of birth and Social Security number, and sometimes they don’t. Apparently, in a lot of incidents the DOB is necessary to narrow the search down to the exact person being looked for when additional investigations are conducted. The state of Arizona does have a law that protects residents’ private information, and the Phoenix City Manager says the city “began restricting public documents, at the request of city attorneys, to comply with an Arizona law designed to protect residents’ personal information.”

Other police departments confirm that date of birth is necessary to prevent mistaken identities, and this is supported by private individuals and companies who have to access these records for business purposes. What we have here is one of those situations that can give privacy advocates a bad case of heart burn. This, combined with an active terrorist movement, plus bad guys that seem to find new and better ways to rob us each day, provides a real dilemma. And it doesn’t appear that either side is willing to give in completely, nor should they.

If your state has a law protecting this sort of personal data collection, please share it with us all, and provide any information you might have on what your local law enforcement jurisdictions collect and make available to the public.

Somewhere in the future, either technology will give us the ability to solve the identification process without giving up the family private history. Or, Congress will eventually implement the Real ID Act. You remember this fiasco, the one that requires each state to come up with an ID card that is standard by federal guidelines. The Act was delayed in 2008 with an extension to December 31, 2009. I wouldn’t have bet on anything of this nature backed by the Bush administration, but perhaps Obama’s “heads” can figure out a way to ID each of us without potentially giving away the farm.

What I do know is that with each announcement of this type, we get closer and closer to the time when the data burglars won’t have to spend more than a few seconds to determine from where to steal your private information. The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before the crooks compile their own “Directory of ID Theft Sources.” And with public apathy toward the identity crisis continuing at a steady pace, those sources will persist and become more valuable each day.

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