How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft? From Christopher Shearer

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Commercial Real Estate Consultant Lic Broker in FL and VA

christopher Shearer

Individual identity protection

The acquisition of personal identifiers is made possible through serious breaches of privacy. For consumers, this is usually due to personal naiveté about who they provide their information to. In some cases the criminal obtains documents or personal identifiers through physical theft (e.g. vehicle break-ins and home invasions). Guardianship of personal identifiers by consumers is the most common intervention strategy recommended by the US Federal Trade Commission, Canadian Phone Busters and most sites that address identity theft. Personal guardianship issues include recommendations on what consumers may do to prevent their information getting into the wrong hands.

The strongest protection against identity theft is not to identify at all - thereby ensuring that information cannot be reused to impersonate an individual elsewhere. As such, identify theft is often a question of too little privacy or too much identification. Many activities and organizations in a modern society require people to provide personal identifiers (Social Security number, national identification number, drivers license number, credit card number, etc), and in some cases the knowledge of personal identifiers is treated as proof of identity. This is sometimes done as a convenience or to enable transactions by telephone or the internet, however it can also make it more difficult for individuals to protect themselves from identity theft.

To protect an individuals from online identity theft by phishing, hacking or Zero day attacks online consumers are advised by e-retailers to ensure their computer security and [|operating systems] are fully up-to-date.

In some cases an identity thief will attempt to impersonate a deceased individual. Frequently credit checks or other types of verification are not cross referenced with death certificates, so the crime may go unchecked for some time unless the deceased's family detects it and takes steps to prevent further fraud.[7]

In recent years, many commercial identity theft protection services have been started by companies in the United States. These services purport to help protect the individual from identity theft or help detect that identity theft has occurred in exchange for a monthly or annual membership fee.[8] The services typically work either by setting fraud alerts on the individual's credit files with the three major credit bureaus or by setting up credit report monitoring with the credit bureaus. While identity theft protection services have been heavily marketed, their value has been called into question.

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Identity protection by organizations

In their May 1998 testimony before the United States Senate, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) discussed the sale of Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers by credit-raters and data miners. The FTC agreed to the industry's self-regulating principles restricting access to information on credit reports.[10] According to the industry, the restrictions vary according to the category of customer. Credit reporting agencies gather and disclose personal and credit information to a wide business client base.

 Poor stewardship of personal data by organizations, resulting in unauthorized access to sensitive data, can expose individuals to the risk of identity theft. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has documented over 900 individual data breaches by US companies and government agencies since January 2005, which together have involved over 200 million total records containing sensitive personal information, many containing social security numbers.[11] Poor corporate diligence standards which can result in data breaches include:

  • failure to shred confidential information before throwing it into dumpsters
  • failure to ensure adequate network security
  • the theft of laptop computers or portable media being carried off-site containing vast amounts of personal information. The use of strong encryption on these devices can reduce the chance of data being misused should a criminal obtain them.
  • the brokerage of personal information to other businesses without ensuring that the purchaser maintains adequate security controls
  • Failure of governments, when registering sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations, to determine if the officers listed in the Articles of Incorporation are who they say they are. This potentially allows criminals access to personal information through credit-rating and data mining services.

The failure of corporate or government organizations to protect consumer privacy, client confidentiality and political privacy has been criticized for facilitating the acquisition of personal identifiers by criminals.[12]

Using various types of biometric information, such as fingerprints, for identification and authentication has been cited as a way to thwart identity thieves, however there are technological limitations and privacy concerns associated with these methods as well.

United States

The increase in crimes of identity theft lead to the drafting of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act.[17] In 1998, The Federal Trade Commission appeared before the United States Senate.[18] The FTC discussed crimes which exploit consumer credit to commit loan fraud, mortgage fraud, lines-of-credit fraud, credit card fraud, commodities and services frauds. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (2003)[ITADA] amended U.S. Code Title 18, § 1028 ("Fraud related to activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information"). The statute now makes the possession of any "means of identification" to "knowingly transfer, possess, or use without lawful authority" a federal crime, alongside unlawful possession of identification documents. However, for federal jurisdiction to prosecute, the crime must include an "identification document" that either: (a) is purportedly issued by the United States, (b) is used or intended to defraud the United States, (c) is sent through the mail, or (d) is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce. See 18 U.S.C. § 1028(c). Punishment can be up to 5, 15, 20, or 30 years in federal prison, plus fines, depending on the underlying crime per 18 U.S.C. § 1028(b). In addition, punishments for the unlawful use of a "means of identification" were strengthened in § 1028A ("Aggravated Identity Theft"), allowing for a consecutive sentence under specific enumerated felony violations as defined in § 1028A(c)(1) through (11).

The Act also provides the Federal Trade Commission with authority to track the number of incidents and the dollar value of losses. There figures relate mainly to consumer financial crimes and not the broader range of all identification-based crimes.[19]

If charges are brought by state or local law enforcement agencies, different penalties apply depending on the state.

Six Federal agencies conducted a joint task force to increase the ability to detect identity theft. Their joint recommendation on "red flag" guidelines is a set of requirements on financial institutions and other entities which furnish credit data to credit reporting services to develop written plans for detecting identity theft. These plans must be adopted by each organization's Board of Directors and monitored by senior executives.[20]

Identity theft complaints as a percentage of all fraud complaints decreased from 2004-2006.[21] The Federal Trade Commission reported that fraud complaints in general were growing faster than ID theft complaints.[21]The findings were similar in two other FTC studies done in 2003 and 2005. In 2003, 4.6 percent of the US population said they were a victim of ID theft. In 2005, that number had dropped to 3.7 percent of the population.[22][23] The Commission's 2003 estimate was that identity theft accounted for some $52.6 billion of losses in the preceding year alone and affected more than 9.91 million Americans.[24]; the figure comprises $47.6 billion lost by businesses and $5 billion lost by consumers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a report released in 2007 revealed that 8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft in 2005.[25]

Two states, California and Wisconsin have created an Office of Privacy Protection to assist their citizens in avoiding and recovering from identity theft. [26][27]

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References

  1. ^ Identity Theft Resource Center website
  2. ^ http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/medidtheft_consumertips.html world privacy forum
  3. ^ Former Major League Baseball player Bill Henry was impersonated for over twenty years by an individual born with the same name. There is no evidence that the impersonator gained financially from the impersonation, but he did receive significant local attention.
  4. ^ http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17g-CrimIdTheft.htm Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
  5. ^ McFadden, Leslie (2007-05-16). "Detecting synthetic identity fraud". Bankrate.com. 1-2. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/pf/identity_theft_20070516_a1.asp. Retrieved on 2008-09-21. 
  6. ^ http://www.fightidentitytheft.com/blog/medical-identity-theft-protect-yourself
  7. ^ Identity Theft Resource Center Fact Sheet 117 Identity Theft and the Deceased - Prevention and Victim Tips
  8. ^ Identity Theft Protection Services retrieved on 2008-12-16
  9. ^ Identity-Theft Protection: What Services Can You Trust? PC World.com, retrieved on 2008-12-16
  10. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/1998/05/identhef.htm Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information, Committee of the Judiciary, United States Senate May 20, 1998 pp 5,6
  11. ^ A Chronology of Data Breaches
  12. ^ Internet Identity Theft - A Tragedy for Victims, Software and Information Industry Association, retrieved June 30, 2006
  13. ^ "Crime Stoppers Anonymity Guaranteed". Department of Justice Canada. 2007-12-29. http://www.greatervancouvercrimestoppers.com/news.php?cat=2&news_id=113&rc=program_events. 
  14. ^ The Information Technology Act 2000
  15. ^ R v Seward (2005) EWCA Crim 1941
  16. ^ Government Bodies Must Play Their Part in Securing Against Identity Theft
  17. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/itada/itadact.htm Public Law 105-318, 112 Stat. 3007 (Oct. 30, 1998)
  18. ^ http://www.ftc.gov/os/1998/05/identhef.htm Prepared Statement of the Federal Trade Commission on "Identity Theft" May 20, 1998
  19. ^ Federal Trade Commission, retrieved June 30, 2006
  20. ^ 72 Fed. Reg. 70944 http://www.ftc.gov/os/fedreg/2007/december/071213factafurnisheraccuracy.pdf Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  21. ^ a b Law Enforcement Contact1 January 1 ­ December 31, 2001
  22. ^ FTC-Synovate Rep Final 26Aug.PDF
  23. ^ Federal Trade Commission: 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report: Prepared for the Commission by Synovate (November 2007)
  24. ^ FTC Releases Survey of Identity Theft in U.S. 27.3 Million Victims in past 5 Years, Billions in Losses for Businesses and Consumers
  25. ^ 8.3 Million Identity Theft Victims, Start Shredding; MonoMachines.com http://blog.monomachines.com/2008/05/identity-theft-93-million/ Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  26. ^ http://www.privacyprotection.ca.gov/
  27. ^ http://privacy.wi.gov/
  28. ^ Verbal Testimony by Michelle Brown, July 2000, U.S. Senate Committee Hearing on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information - "Identity Theft: How to Protect and Restore Your Good Name"
  29. ^ Identity Crime Research and Coordination, Australasian Center for Policing Research, retrieved June 30, 2006
  30. ^ What is Identity theft?,Home Office,retrieved November 11, 2008
  31. ^ Free help, tips and advice on avoiding and dealing with Identity Theft
  32. ^ Identity Theft Over-Reported,Bruce Schneier, retrieved June 30, 2006
  33. ^ IMDb: Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story (2004)
  34. ^ [1]

External links

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Christopher Shearer is a multi-family / commercial real estate consultant achieving property owners the highest possible NOI through the implementation of optimal rents for the property, accomplished through careful market, property, comparison grid analysis, effective cost control and revenue improvement programs; identify and analyze trends and recommending appropriate strategies to increase a properties maximum efficiency. Expert at Preparing new investment analysis presentations, offering memoranda and marketing materials, including key investment metrics. IRR, COC, DCR, CR etc.

A seasoned professional, with over 15 years' experience in real estate and finance management. A real estate broker licensed in Florida and Virginia specializing in real estate and asset management of multi-family and commercial properties. Christopher is currently pursuing his M.B.A. in real estate, he holds a B.A. in business as well as an A.A. in business management. Christopher has the following state licenses; Virginia Real Estate Broker, Florida Real Estate Broker, Florida Mortgage Broker and Colorado Mortgage Broker.

Contact me for a consultation and analysis of your commercial or multi-family properties.

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