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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Remember the old days when we used to think of something on the black market being either jeans, CDs, videos, even body organs? Now there’s a new player on the block and they are interested in your name and personal data. It’s a well organized, calculated business to acquire all the consumer private information that can be had, either easily, or no matter how much effort it takes to get it. The idea is to steal your sensitive data, and, rather than capitalize on what they have themselves, the thieves sell it around the Internet underground to thousands of takers who then proceed to cop your identity.

Newsweek had an article last December, by Benjamin Sutherland, quoting a French security specialist who estimates there are several hundred online marketplaces just bursting with your latest personal data. My take is that number is conservative. It’s the general run of information that is available. Bank accounts that go for 5 to 10 percent of your balance. But credit cards are the most in demand, garnering around $450 for 10 accounts if you are in the U.S. or Western Europe. Like any other commodity, it is quality that determines the final price.

Naturally, I still believe that my concept of giving consumers control over their names and private information would put an end to this black market trade. Let’s set up a scenario where the crooks have stolen your personal data, including your Social Security number, and have sold it extensively to the underground.

The next move by the bad guys who bought your private information would be to open all the new accounts they can before being discovered. Then, either make purchases in your name or go for whatever cash is available in the credit line. Regardless, you’re on the line for the dirty dealings until, and if, you can prove it is ID theft. But wait…resulting from federal legislation, you were given the right to control your sensitive data, and through a process of approval necessary, whenever your private information is used, you have the ability to stop any and all transactions, ultimately spoiling the heist.

If you want to see the mechanics of how this control over your name would work, go here.

Since much of the thievery of our private information originates outside the U.S., it is sometimes near impossible for the American government to identity the bad guys, must less get the country to take action against them. As an example, in a 2006 study of phishing, 4 percent came from Great Britain, 6 percent from China, 8 percent from India, and 14 percent from South Korea. It is a well known fact that a great deal of identity scammers reside in Russia. In case you’re wondering, phishing is sending an e-mail posing as an established company to get the receiver to give up sensitive data.

In a crooked reseller’s market, the number of times your personal data is sold is unlimited, which means that there are endless possibilities where your identity can be breached and stolen. This is all escalating to a point where current methods of protecting the individual’s identity are proving useless. If someone has a better idea than giving consumers control over it, let them come forward. Pretty soon it will be too late.

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