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The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Ben Rothke writes "It's a fallacy that our elected officials take forever to get things done. Two examples where Washington acted with speed are with the National Do Not Call Registry and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The National Do Not Call Registry was slated to take effect on October 1, 2003, but various marketing associations challenged its legitimacy and even if the FTC had the jurisdiction to enforce it. Notwithstanding, President Bush speedily signed the bill authorizing the no-call list to go into effect in September 2003 and the United State Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the registry in February 2004. On June 25, 2002, WorldCom revealed it had overstated its earnings by more than $7 billion by improperly accounting for its operating costs. Senator Paul Sarbanes then introduced Senate Bill 2673 that same day where it passed 97-0 less than three weeks later. The House and Senate formed a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between Sarbanes's bill and Representative Michael Oxley's bill (HR 3763) and on July 24, 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed." Read on for the rest of Ben's review.
Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan
author Frank W. Abagnale
pages 256
publisher Broadway Books
rating 8
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 0767925866
summary exposes the tactics of today's identity theft criminals and offers strategies to thwart them


The bottom line is that when politicians really want votes and PR, they can act swiftly. The frustration is exacerbated when politicians choose to do nothing when it comes to identity theft. In Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan, Frank Abagnale details the frustration that consumers face (and will face in the years to come) when their identities are stolen, the ease at which the criminals carry out such crimes, and the months and often years of effort required to regain ones identity.

Abagnale's tenure on the criminal side long ago gives him the advantage that he knows firsthand how criminals think and such an outlook is pervasive throughout the book. Looking at the current state of identity protection, he states that he is personally horrified at how easy identity theft is. In fact, he calls it "a crook's dream come true". The book details incident after incident where criminals and criminal gangs obtained credit in someone else's name with ease.

What makes this worse is that the book shows how we haven't even scratched the surface of the identity theft problem. Everyone, including the FTC agrees that current identity theft figures are quite low, due to the fact that so many cases go unreported or undetected.

The book notes that lenders often miscategorize a good deal of identity theft because it looks like delinquent bills, as opposed to a crime. Only later does the victim realize what has been going on and complains, at which time it becomes apparent that fraud was involved. But by that time, the money has been written off as a credit loss and then appears as negative information on the victim's credit report.

Like many other books on the subject of identity theft, Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan covers the main issues, and makes numerous suggestions on how to control your identity. What is interesting about the book is that Abagnale also focuses on why identity theft is so popular for today's criminals. One of the main reasons it that the person committing the crime has the odds significantly stacked in their favor. The book quotes a Gartner study that found that identity thieves have roughly a 1 in 700 chance of getting caught by law enforcement, which is a figure any criminal would jump at.

The books 13 chapters are written in an easy to read and compelling style. The early chapters detail the prime causes of what makes identity theft such a problem and astutely notes that a large part of the problem is that financial services companies are conducting business today by doling out credit like candy and do almost nothing to ascertain that people really are who they say they are when applying for credit. In addition, issuers of credit in their haste to rack up more business frequently accept a social security number from an applicant at face value, without demanding proof. The book lists many examples of where children and dead people have been given credit.

In chapter 6, the book lists 20 steps one can take in the hope of preventing identify theft. The author notes that since the punishment for identity theft, and the recovery of stolen goods from identity theft are so low, the only viable source of action is prevention by the individual. All 20 steps are fundamental, from protecting your social security number and examining your financial statements, to using a shredder and more.

Chapter 8 lists one of the more important points of the book, in which Abagnale writes that all credit and personal information should be opt-in based, as opposed to the prevalent opt-out requirement. Such an approach is what one would hope Congress would mandate, but does not have the tenacity to do. The problem is that if a consumer does not opt-out, they are giving the financial institution permission to share their personal information with the hundreds and often thousands of affiliates they share data with.

Companies obviously prefer opt-out, which shifts the burden to the consumer to take action to keep their information from being shared. With opt-in, the burden shifts and the financial services company has to prove that consumers granted their consent to have their personal information shared. National opt-in requirements would significant stem the flow of personal information, which is in part why identity theft is so easy to carry out.

Aside from a glaring error in chapter 12 where Abagnale erroneously writes that true authentication is impossible on the Internet and occasionally hawking companies he has financial dealings with, Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan is an interesting and entertaining book on a subject of the fasting growing crime in the USA.

The book details what happens when an apathetic Congress and financial services industry do almost nothing to protect their constituents, and the thieves who have never had it easier. These identity thieves are able to acquire gigabytes of personal information without ever having to leave their workstations. When you factor in that the odds are in their favor of never being prosecuted, it leaves nearly every individual at risk for identity theft.

With Congress dropping the ball and doing nothing, Abagnale shows that it is up to each individual to take responsibility for protecting their own personal information. Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan is indeed a great place to start such an approach.

Ben Rothke is a security consultant with BT INS and the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know


You can purchase Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan

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  • Summary? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xbytor (215790)
    The summary extract on the front page has nothing to do with the rest of the summary or the article.

    Or I'm confused again...
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      No. The poster needs a lesson in writting. Rule 1 = Put your topic in the first sentence, and summarize your argument/belief in the first paragraph.
      • Re:Summary? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:13PM (#19905217)
        Yeah, everyone has to follow some standardized model of writing because readers can't be expected to actually read the whole thing or understand it, if it isn't standardized. Put the Executive Summary right up there at the top so people can read it and make up their minds without too much effort.

        Also, show your work on long division. Don't make marks outside the circles. Use a #2 pencil. If you draw a sailboat in the footer you fail the entire test regardless of what you know. This is all because your success over the entire rest of your life is going hinge moron your ability to follow instructions to the letter rather than your ability to think.
        • Well, you can demand that people change their behavior, or you can craft your writing to fit how they already behave. Which one will give you better results?
        • by Carik (205890)
          Of course not everyone has to follow the "standard" model. Only people who want others to understand quickly what they're talking about.

          As with many apparently stupid standards, there are reasons for this one. It's the best way to get your point across quickly and concisely. (As one of my professors put it, "Tell people what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you've told them.") It's also a good way to hook people into reading your article; I only read this after an officemate as
          • One common problem is that a great many points cannot be described quickly or concisely. Some actually need verbose description. Some might even need a data table or, shockingly enough, a graphic. I'd make the case that plenty of topics are misunderstood by very intelligent people because various standard models force the information that describes them into molds it does not fit.

            Another problem is that there are many ways to deliver a decent overview of the topic at hand without having to rely on some kind
        • by jafiwam (310805)

          Stop being a fucking retard.

          The summary looks like it was grabbed from a different article than the headline any way you interpret it. In other words, somebody fucked it up.

          I popped in here to poke fun at the fuckup in the Slashdot database I was so convinced something had gone wrong.

          It's just as stupid as:Find out how you can save hundreds of dollars on your car insurance [goatse.cx].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eln (21727) *
      Let me summarize the article for you:

      First part (front page): Government actually can get things done quickly, and here are two examples of when they did just that. Saying the government is incapable of doing things quickly is just factually wrong.

      Second part (all but the last paragraph): Here's a bunch of stuff about this book that details things you can do to stop identity theft, and things the Government could do except the Government sucks and won't do anything.

      Last part (last paragraph): Government is
    • by hpavc (129350)
      Seems like a commercial for http://gunbroker.com/ [gunbroker.com] to me
  • by fizzbin (110016) * <7fl8o4rqr2is001@sneakemail.com> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:32PM (#19904655) Homepage
    It is absolutely correct that in order to combat identity theft effectively, information sharing must be opt-in. In fact, even to report your information to a credit reporting agency, you should have to explicitly authorize such reporting.

    Of course, the credit bureaus and other data brokers who make money off your data would scream and holler. They would decry how "credit reporting is a benefit -- it lets you get credit easily and cheaply." Funny thing though -- you cannot refuse this "benefit".
    • by Radres (776901) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:54PM (#19904941)
      Here's what I think: they should make credit card companies 100% responsible for any identity theft losses, as well as force them to pay restitution to identity theft victims.

      That way, maybe the credit card companies will stop wasting paper and resources to flood our mailboxes with unnecessary credit card applications and start thinking about how to improve the security of setting up a credit card.
      • by danpat (119101)
        I've often wondered if a well-placed lawsuit against a bank might not have the same effect. Sue the bank for failing to properly identify you and doing things with your property that you did not authorise. If you win, that'd create a nightmare for organisations that use insecure measures to identify their customers and would shift the liability away from the consumer and onto the people/organisations that can actually do something about it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jrjarrett (949308)
        That way, maybe the credit card companies will stop wasting paper and resources to flood our mailboxes with unnecessary credit card applications and start thinking about how to improve the security of setting up a credit card.


        No, all it would mean is that interest rates would go up, "convenience fees" would pop up everywhere and get ever-bigger....

        Credit card companies would sieze every opportunity to pass on these costs to the consumer.
    • (Score:3, Troll)

      Jebus, this isn't even mods on crack, it looks like the credit agencies got mod points today!
    • you should have to explicitly authorize such reporting.
      You do. Or don't you read the fine print on those service/credit agreements you sign?

      You have a choice -- either be part of the credit culture (and deal with credit reporting) or get off the credit "grid" and not be able to easily purchase basic necessities like telephone service. You could go prepaid for some of that, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by erroneus (253617)
      Oh it is the credit industry's creation, by and large, that has enabled this problem with fraud. But more precisely, it is the accepted and institutional use of the "human serial number" (aka the SSN) that enables this to happen the most. And frankly, all of this was predicted to happen when this system was being created. It was created in spite of enormous protest and now this is happening. The credit reporting laws were created to help ease the public outcry... fair collection acts and the like as wel
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zathrus (232140)

      It is absolutely correct that in order to combat identity theft effectively, information sharing must be opt-in

      No it's not. What should be freely available, however, with no requirements or costs, is a credit block -- the ability to prevent any new accounts from being opened on your credit reports as long as the block is in place (typically the block can be temporarily removed/disabled via phone and a PIN; that way you can still get new credit, but at least then you _know_ when you're getting new credit).

      Fu

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:35PM (#19904695)
    Yes, Congress can act rapidly. Unfortunately, it almost always results in a bad law. Sarbanes-Oxley is a great example, it costs a lot more than it saves. The most efficient way to prevent the problems it is designed to curb is by keeping the tax on stock dividends at the same as the tax on capital gains. If a company gives a dividend, it cannot play the accounting games that lead to the abuses that SOX was designed to stop.
    • by AuMatar (183847)
      You don't seem to understand what SOX was supposed to do. It was not designed to stop a single tax scam. It was designed to prove accountability in finances, so that executives in the future can't play the "I didn't know about it" game. As for the cost- 90% of the cost is due to auditors outright lieing about whats required, in order to get juicier contracts.
      • It wasn't supposed to stop a tax scam. It was designed to stop companies from cooking their books to make their stocks the company appear more valuable than it actually was(oversimplification). In other words companies were playing games with their books so that people would pay more for their stocks. These games don't work when the company is paying a dividend. If the tax rate on capital gains is less than the tax on dividends (which it was throughout the 90's) then investors prefer for the company to rein
        • [Quote]You can't pay out a dividend every year if your profits are all generated by shifting debt around.[/Quote]

          That is a gross over-simplification how the problems SOX is trying prevent.

          As long as I have cash-flow, I can easily pay out dividend and STILL cook the books. It is not like Enrons and Worldcoms of the cooked the books for decades, it was for a limited time period (10 years). As long as I have enough cash-flow I can easily cover the dividends required. As matter of fact both Worldcom and Enron p
          • Neither Enron nor Worldcom would have been able to cook their books the way they did if they were paying out dividends. Several years ago I saw a detailed analysis by an investment expert showing the nature of both of their accounting tricks and why they would not have worked if the company was paying dividends. Part of the explanation has to do with the cash for the dividends and part of it has to do with the way that available cash would have been reduced. Basically the gist of it was that they were alrea
            • Hmmm...

              Let me get this straight. So you are not denying the paying dividend would NOT stop the company from cooking the books. But you are arguing that it would limit the duration/amount involved.

              Very interesting argument except that coporate credit is readily available. Even if it would divert some of the cash flow to the dividends, they can always borrow more (even if they had to disguise it through subsidiaries). It still does not solve the problem of motivation - i.e. there are millions to be gained by
              • Most companies used to pay dividends. Some time in the 80's this stopped because the capital gains tax went down, but the tax on dividends didn't. This meant that if someone was an investor, they paid less tax on increased value if it was a result of an increase in stock price than they did if the money was paid out in dividends. As a result most companies stopped paying dividends. If the dividend tax rate was the same or lower than the capital gains rate, investors would prefer dividends. If companies pay
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arcane_Rhino (769339)

      Why was this marked flamebait?

      The National Review pointed out recently that Sarbanes-Oxley, which was more or less intended to protect the non-professional investor by requiring greater scrutiny and transparency of publicly traded companies, requires a lot of overhead to administer. Consequently, while the larger firms can/have complied without a blink, the smaller start-ups (in particular, but not exclusively) have simply opted to avoid Sarbanes-Oxley by not going public.

      So what, one says... Well

  • A fallacy? (Score:1, Interesting)

    So because Bush quickly signed the the do not call registry into law in 2003 then that is a credit for governments swift action? Telemarketing has been a huge pain in everyones ass and telemarketers calling during diner has been a joke for as long as I can remeber. By 2003 spam and pop ups were doing a great job of helping to make telemarketing obsolete anyways.
    • Yeah, griping about telemarketers was a national pasttime (sp) long before '03 -- I personally remember it in the 80s, and I'm sure it was big even before that. And then when they passed the law, they exempted politicians and, for all practical purposes, any business that I have ever communicatd with (ongoing business relationship!). So yeah -- not very swift.

      Btw, I just love when the presidents of these marketing associations gripe when someone posts their contact information ... as if it's a violation o
    • Note that he said "it's a fallacy that our politicians take FOREVER to get things done." Actually, that's not saying very much: of course it's a fallacy; "forever" is a ridiculous exaggeration. Doesn't mean they don't take a HELL of a long time though ;)
  • Terrible Examples (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loteck (533317) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:39PM (#19904751) Homepage
    Sarb-Ox was indeed put together and passed very quickly, and it shows. The cost to implement compliance is so overwhelmingly high that small and midsize businesses simply cannot afford to do it, and Congress has recognized this and delayed enforcement. It seems all but sure at this point that Sox will never take effect on small and midsize public companies in its current form.

    The Do Not Call registry was timely? People have been complaining about unwanted phone solicitations for years and years. That is actually an excellent example of Congress showing that it is incapable of moving quickly enough.

    And, finally, lets not forget about the USA PATRIOT act. That passed in 1 night in response to 9/11, and I'm sure my fellow Slashdotters will agree that it was brimming with righteousness and justice. Thank christ Congress acted quickly on that one.

    No, I'm afraid kneejerk reactions by Congress are not the answer you seek. The elephant in the room that no one in Congress wants to recognize is that identify theft is so easy now only because we have tied ourselves to our Social Security numbers, something that was never supposed to happen and something that fundamentally undermines the idea of individual privacy and freedom. Do not look to the people who created this problem in the first place to fix it without continuing to divest you of your personal liberties.

    • by slughead (592713) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:06PM (#19905127) Homepage Journal
      And, finally, lets not forget about the USA PATRIOT act. That passed in 1 night in response to 9/11, and I'm sure my fellow Slashdotters will agree that it was brimming with righteousness and justice. Thank christ Congress acted quickly on that one.

      Most if not all of the components of the Patriot Act had been previously written and people had been trying to tack it onto other legislation for years.

      For as much as the Patriot Act gets the blame for all our "rights lost" in the past 6 years, it really was just a short piece of literature that merely 'connected the dots' on all this other crap that we had already established.

      For example, the FISA (Foriegn Intelligence Surveillance Act) court was handing out secret warrants without accountability since Reagan created it in the 1980's. The Patriot Act simply turned that court against American citizens. Just one tiny change in wording can have profound effects.

      Government moves slowly, but much of the time methodically, in taking away individual liberty.
      • by instarx (615765)
        Most if not all of the components of the Patriot Act had been previously written and people had been trying to tack it onto other legislation for years. For as much as the Patriot Act gets the blame for all our "rights lost" in the past 6 years, it really was just a short piece of literature that merely 'connected the dots' on all this other crap that we had already established.

        There is a glaring logical error in this argument. That people had been "trying to tack [multiple components] on to other legisla
        • by slughead (592713)
          The UASPA, which DID get passed is the law that began the rise of the police state mentality we now labor under.

          Surely, you're joking.

          But alas, I've written this rant [slashdot.org] before.
    • Rewarding the Guilty (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Agreed, Sarb-Ox was put together and passed very quickly, and it shows.

      Consultants are in the business of selling billable hours, nothing more. It doesn't matter if they are accountants, lawyers or MBAs. Their advice is what led to the meltdowns at Enron, MCI, etc. They were trying to find clever ways to reinterpret SEC rules and GAAP(Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures). GAAP are not written by the government. The SEC trusts the financial services industry to police itself with its own written policie
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You touched on but didn't explicitly identify the main problem: the law was a reaction to a very very few bad apples and it makes everybody else pay for the mistakes of those few.

      Prices to the customer are higher because the prices to the companies are higher. This is truly a cure that is worse than the disease, introducing a huge level of economic inefficiency. If it's ever required for small companies, it'll raise the bar for entrepreneurs even further, lowering the number of companies created. This thing
      • by drsquare (530038)

        Prices to the customer are higher because the prices to the companies are higher. This is truly a cure that is worse than the disease, introducing a huge level of economic inefficiency. If it's ever required for small companies, it'll raise the bar for entrepreneurs even further, lowering the number of companies created. This thing is attacking the capitalist economy directly. Our entire way of life is based on that kind of economy, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it originated as an attempt to undermi

  • by Magneon (1067470) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:47PM (#19904851)
    Most of us have no life or identity to steal...
  • Frank Abagnale (Score:5, Informative)

    by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:48PM (#19904871) Journal
    If the name of the author is familiar, it is because Frank Abagnale [wikipedia.org]'s exploits were popularized in the 2002 movie [wikipedia.org] Catch Me If You Can [imdb.com]. Leo DiCaprio played the Abagnale, with Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent tracking him down.

    Given Abagnale's extensive knowledge and experience in check (and other) fraud, he speaks with some authority on the sad state of how easy identity theft can be.
  • by Frank Abagnale (1129871) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:50PM (#19904887)

    Aside from a glaring error in chapter 12 where Abagnale erroneously writes that true authentication is impossible on the Internet and occasionally hawking companies he has financial dealings with

    Look, man, I was really high when I wrote that chapter; you've got to give me a break.

    --
    This post brought to you by OnlyIAmMe(TM) ID Theft Prevention, Inc.
    Secure your identity today! Plans start at $1,995 for a limited time.
  • It is my understanding that in at least of the 30 of the 50 states you can "freeze" your credit, not allowing someone else (or yourself) to take out loans, get a credit card, etc. Choicepoint and the other 2 (asshole) credit bureaus are lobbying against this.
    It really gets my goat that, contrary to what is in the social security act (it is illegal to use it for anything except SS purposes), our SSNs have become the defacto identifier in terms of any goverment, university, or financi
    • by tbannist (230135)
      That's what happens when you don't actually enforce a law, people don't follow it. Now if the government had cracked down on any non-SS use of SSNs when it started, they wouldn't be used like that...
  • by asphaltjesus (978804) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:51PM (#19904899)
    The entire notion of "identity theft" simultaneously preys on the fears of individuals by creating the specter of more bogeymen and promotes the Consumer Information mega-industry.

    You want to stop "identity theft?" Make the collection and sale of personal data against the law. Oh wait. That would mean participating in your government.

    Today's lesson: we've all gotten exactly what we've put into this issue.
       
    • I've a better idea, how about we abolish government (along with capitalism), removing the vast majority of incentives to try and pretend to be someone else.

      Failing that, we could just abolish identities, except that capitalism and the government couldn't work then could they... The government needs to link you with a number, they need to be able to find you in their file, similarly so do the corporations.

      The problem with the current system of government is that it actively discourages citizen participation
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > In the USA for example, elections are on a Tuesday (!), and there is no incentive to change that

        Friday - Muslim holy day
        Saturday - Shabbat
        Sunday - Some other religion's holy day

        Employers have to give you the time off, but for some it's still a big commute. It's a travesty that the whole day isn't a mandatory holiday.
  • For those unfamiliar with Frank W. Abagnale [wikipedia.org], the author of this book, he was the real-life basis for the movie Catch Me if You Can [imdb.com] about his crime spree in the 1960s, during which he took on various fake personalities and passed over $2.5M in bad checks. So he definitely has some practical expertise about the criminal mind and identity theft.

    That said, nowadays, identity theft online is a very large section of ID theft related crimes nowadays and I would question his expertise in this area since most of h
  • My tips (Score:4, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:53PM (#19904925) Homepage
    1. Put a fraud alert on your credit file. You may have to give a reason, such as that you have reason to believe someone you don't trust has gotten access to your identifying information, or that you accidentally responded to a phishing attack. I've never had to make up a reason -- I always get a false charge on my credit cards at least once a year. The fraud alert lasts for a year, and anytime any company wants to extend you credit, they have to call the phone number associated with the fraud alert (hint: give the credit agency your cell phone number when you establish the fraud alert). Note that this can be a pain. You may miss the call. Or worse, when you call back it goes to a general phone number and no one knows what the heck you're talking about. Or worse, the company extending the credit (e.g. perhaps a cell phone company) may just not be set up to handle credit files with fraud alerts.
    2. Alternatively, or in addition, pay Equifax their extortion money of $130/year for their 3-in-1 monitoring. Any activity on your credit file at any of the big three credit agencies causes an e-mail to be sent to you. Account creations are sent within a day or two. But balance changes on existing accounts are sent only once per month -- which is next to worthless since you can just check your monthly statements.
    3. For brokerage accounts, get two-factor authorization (i.e. an RSA SecureID token). It's often free, depending upon your balance.
    4. Pay in cash at restaurants, and as much as possible elsewhere.
    5. Use TrueCrypt for electronic documents.
    6. Use a locking file cabinet (keeps guests out, even though it's worthless against burglars).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by loteck (533317)

      As an alternative to the fraud alert, most states now have regulated the ability to "freeze" your credit. No inquiries can be made to your credit while it is locked, period. If you want to enable a creditor to run a query, you have to "unfreeze" it temporarily, which can take up to 3 days to do.

      Costs to do this vary by state, in some its free and in some there's a fee between $3 and $20. You can look it up here [consumersunion.org].

      As long as you are thinking ahead on any loans or credit applications you do, it seems like a

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jellie (949898)
      To add to that, you should request credit reports periodically to monitor for any abuse, if you're in the US. AnnualCreditReport [annualcreditreport.com] is a site run by the 3 credit reporting agencies. You can request a free credit report per year from EACH company, meaning you could get one every four months.

      (Note: depending on which state you live in, you may also be eligible for free credit reports from the companies themselves. The website is run by the credit agencies but I don't believe it's commercial - I think they were c
    • Fraud alerts must be renewed every 90-180 days. Only TransUnion offers 1 year alerts according to this website [bankrate.com]. Although they are not a guarantee by themselves, they do offer a measure of protection that shouldn't be ignored. There are some subscription services that will automatically renew your fraud alerts for you. Lifelock [lifelock.com] and Debix [debix.com] are two commercial subscription services that will perform this service for around $50-100/year. I'm sure there are others that I am unaware of.

      I use Debix and recentl
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      1. [...] anytime any company wants to extend you credit, they have to call the phone number associated with the fraud alert

      This is mostly false. The fraud alert is simply an advisory inserted into the credit report, and it is totally up to the creditor if he wants to call the number on it and verify. Some credit report interfaces don't even display the fraud alert. For instance, one time I was opening a bank account and they pulled my credit, but the interface never brought up my fraud alert.

      2. Alternatively, or in addition, pay Equifax their extortion money of $130/year for their 3-in-1 monitoring. Any activity on your credit file at any of the big three credit agencies causes an e-mail to be sent to you. Account creations are sent within a day or two. But balance changes on existing accounts are sent only once per month

      Balance information is only reported to the bureaus once per month, so it's hard to ask them to do any better for you. ;) Anyhow, I

      • Which brokers offer this service? Mine does not.


        ETRADE does, and the token is free if you have more than $50,000 in total balance (it's $25 otherwise). If you've got that much in your accounts (IRA, bank, brokerage - it adds up), there's absolutely no reason not to get one.
    • by drmerope (771119)

      Alternatively, or in addition, pay Equifax their extortion money of $130/year for their 3-in-1 monitoring

      I find it rather interesting that the credit agencies get away with charging people money to correct a problem which their business practices have ultimately created.

      The problem right now is that the credit reporting agencies are exempted by law from any liability for repeating false credit history. What we need is a clear reform of the law such that inaccuracies in the credit report issued about yo

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:01PM (#19905053)
    Aside from a glaring error in chapter 12 where Abagnale erroneously writes that true authentication is impossible on the Internet

    While strictly speaking, from a theoretical standpoint, he is, as you say, wrong about true authentication being impossible it is also important to consider the audience to whom this book is speaking. In fact, it can be very difficult for the average user, in practice, to be certain that a particular electronic transaction is secure (there have been several recent studies confirming this). This combined with the fact that the phishers, identity thieves, spammers, and other malcontents are actively subverting the system to trick users in ever more sophisticated and clever ways means that from a practical standpoint, for the average user, this may be good advice (i.e. to consider internet transactions to be unsecured or at the very least suspect). I know that this is Slashdot and we all know better here (i.e. we wouldn't be easily fooled by phishers or get hit with a rootkit or keylogger...or so we hope), but if experts have difficulties then just imagine how the average users feel.
    • True identification IS impossible on the Internet. Any and all solutions have cracks in it. Heck, you can't even prove your identity in "real life" unless you've been fingerprinted at birth. Prove who you really are. Can you prove that you weren't switched at birth? That you weren't really adopted, and your adoptive parents never told you (or the converse - that your parents told you you were adopted, but lied - to cover up, for example, that your uncle is really your father ...)

      Sure, people have known yo

      • Can you prove that you weren't switched at birth? That you weren't really adopted, and your adoptive parents never told you

        So what if I was? That has no bearing on who I am. My identity is the sum of the things I've done. Really, the only thing you have to prove is that I didn't do things under a different identity that are naughty.

        • "So what if I was? That has no bearing on who I am. My identity is the sum of the things I've done. Really, the only thing you have to prove is that I didn't do things under a different identity that are naughty."

          Really ... considering that it affects what you can inherit [imdb.com] ...

          Beside, have you ever tried to prove a negative?

          • Beside, have you ever tried to prove a negative?

            You can do this in a limited way, which is just fine for things like credit. Credit doesn't even require proof of identity (not at the absolute level), only a reasonable idea of how likely someone is to pay you off vs. default vs. disappear.

      • by nuzak (959558)
        > Can you prove that you weren't switched at birth?

        Yunno, I've heard there are tests for that.

        Damn, I just found out I was switched with my identical twin brother!
  • gotta love (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:16PM (#19905265)
    How SOx is presented as an "obviously good" thing. It's killing ipos, it's preventing the little companies from going public and getting funding. Now they can't turn to the public anymore and can only rely on big institutional investors. Yeah, hurray for Sox.
  • by mcwop (31034)
    http://www.lifelock.com/ [lifelock.com]

    You have to pay, but the service covers most of the basics.

  • Consumer Reports has an editorial on freezing your credit report [consumerreports.org] this month. They even include a list of states having such laws [consumersunion.org]. Most of them require a small fee (~$10) to lock, then temporarily unlock your credit report; but this is generally much less than the "credit monitoring" service scams that creditors try to sell (these services only tell you when identity theft may be occurring, they don't prevent it).

    Once it's locked, anyone trying to pull your credit report will be denied (unless you author

    • by droopycom (470921)
      If everybody starts using this, it will only be a matter of time before thieves figure out a way to unlock your file for their purpose.

  • by ckokotay (206080) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:36PM (#19905609)
    ID theft is just one of the many, many problems with the credit system in the US. The worst problem is with reporting - things are reported to credit bureaus that have nothing to do with credit, much of it is deliberately false both from credit companies and third party debt collector scum, and finally what the credit report is permitted to be used for.

    Good examples are credit card companies deliberately not reporting credit limits to drop your coveted 'score' (so you are ALWAYS over the limit), to third party debt collectors re-aging old debt, to out and out falsifying payment records, etc...

    And, then there are other things like medical bills. Why are unpaid medical bills on a credit report? It is not credit, and has no bearing on your ability or desire to pay your mortgage or car loan. Tough luck that you didn't have insurance - you should have thought about that before you went and got cancer. Or what about that fenceline dispute you had with your neighbor that you took to small claims court. You lost, there was no monetary award, yet a judgement still appears on your 'credit' report. Plain wrong.

    Oh, and then there is permissible purpose. Exactly what does a credit report have to do with a job? How about insurance? How many people were 'right-sized' into 'bad credit'? Now you can't get another job because your credit is bad? C'mon, does anyone see something wrong with this? Credit reports are about useless for determining credit worthiness for a myriad of reasons, and we want them applied here to? Give me a break. Got 'bad' credit? Can't rent now either - so where the hell are you supposed to live? The problem of people using credit reports for things other than granting credit is big and getting a lot bigger, but will anyone stand up an write Congress about it? And you can forget cable, direct tv, cell phone plans, satellite radio, or any other services. Down in Texas they are raising gas utility rates on people who have bad credit. Wake up people! Not all people have bad credit on purpose even in the absence of ID theft.

    The system is a horrible disgrace - designed to bilk billions out of the public - nothing more, even if you leave ID theft out of it altogether.

    Until there are laws passed that are stronger than the FCRA and impose criminal penalties and much higher fines, you will never see the end of this.
    • third party debt collectors re-aging old debt, to out and out falsifying payment records, etc...

      That's an income source, actually - sue them for illegal debt collection and get a grand or two for your trouble.

      Why are unpaid medical bills on a credit report? It is not credit, and has no bearing on your ability or desire to pay your mortgage or car loan.

      It's an unpaid debt. why wouldn't it be included?

      Got 'bad' credit? Can't rent now either - so where the hell are you supposed to live?

      Rent a room f

    • by Myopic (18616)
      Why are unpaid medical bills on a credit report? It is not credit

      Explain to me in what way an unpaid bill is not credit. There was a service performed, which you did not pay for at the time of service, or at the time of first billing. After your first opportunity to pay is past, it's credit.

      Also: The problem of people using credit reports for things other than granting credit is big and getting a lot bigger

      Well, it's a report on your past use of credit, so it's called a Credit Report. But that doesn't natur
  • There are millions of illegal immigrants working with fake SSNs. They Give fake SSNs to hospitals, cell phone providers, banks, tax collectors, schools, etc. How would illegal immigrants operate if you had tough penalties for using someone else's SSN? This is one of the biggest politically sensitive roadblocks to better identity theft protection in this country.
  • Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tom's a-cold (253195) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:08PM (#19906015) Homepage
    Pass a federal law that states (reiterates?) that an individual has ownership of their personal data.

    Any use of that data would require opt-in or, better yet, payment to its owner.

    The credit reporting firms are snooping on us now and making money from it. Let's see how viable their business model would be if the free lunch were taken away. Screw parasitic middlemen.

    • Have you retrieved your free credit report mandated by federal law, lately?
      They also turned that into a money making scheme for themselves with all these "upsales" and the concept that the credit report does not include your credit rating number unless you pay them for it. I wonder if they didn't sponsor the idea to pass that law themselves. :)
    • Whenever you sign up for credit or insurance, there is usually some form with a bunch of small text you're supposed to read. Nobody reads that or is expected to. Thats just how it is. But that goes both ways!

      Cross out random sections and initial the changes. Then write in your own clauses preferably with a laser printer so it doesn't stand out. Nine times out of ten, the person activating the account won't even look at the form. They are liable for damages when they don't fulfill the clauses you wrote in
  • Have a fake identity! ;-)
  • by epaulson (7983) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:47PM (#19906583) Homepage
    It seems to me that we'd go a long way in fixing identity theft if we stopped treating knowledge of personal info as proof you are that person. My cable company uses my social security number as "proof" that it's really me - but god only knows how many people know my social security number. My bankers, my employer (and everyone who can touch the payroll system) my doctors office, my insurance companies. The list is very long.

    It should be illegal to use the SSN as a shared secret, and anyone who does use it as a secret identifier should be liable for any expenses they incur. VISA would be a lot more effective at combating fraud if they had to pay for every false credit card opened in my name.

    Even better, if we didn't have to treat SSNs as secret information anymore, it'd make our lives a lot easier. The SSN is a great primary key for me - it's one number I can remember, and it does a good job of uniquely identifying me. I want to be able to give it to more people.

    If Congress really can act quickly when it wants to, a good way to bring this about is to require all members of Congress to publicly disclose their SSN on January 1st 2008.
  • by why-is-it (318134) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:59PM (#19906713) Homepage Journal

    On June 25, 2002, WorldCom revealed it had overstated its earnings by more than $7 billion by improperly accounting for its operating costs. Senator Paul Sarbanes then introduced Senate Bill 2673 that same day where it passed 97-0 less than three weeks later. The House and Senate formed a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between Sarbanes's bill and Representative Michael Oxley's bill (HR 3763) and on July 24, 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed."

    It would have been nice if they had taken some time to consider what the problem was, and then decide if additional legislation was required.

    I am not familiar with the entire text of Sarbanes-Oxley. I am familiar with the effects of some parts of that act and I have a hard time understanding the need for it. A lot of time and effort is spent on activities that generate a lot of paperwork, with few obvious returns for anyone.

    Maybe it's just me? You see, I was under the impression that it was illegal for executives to falsify SEC filings and steal from the shareholders BEFORE Sarbanes-Oxley. The need for this legislation was never obvious to the likes of me.

    Sociopaths like Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers are going to do what they are going to do regardless of the laws on the books. The existing laws didn't stop Lay and Ebbers, and I doubt that the Sarbanes-Oxley act would have made any difference. Perhaps it would have have made their thefts more difficult to pull off, but at the end of the day if a group of executives and board members band together and tell the same lie, it's really hard for the auditors to prove otherwise.

    FWIW, Enron was quite open about what they were doing - it was all in the notes of their SEC filings. Unfortunately, nobody paid any attention to what they were doing as long as the stock kept increasing in value.

    I just don't think Sarbanes-Oxley is a good example of a law period, never mind a law that was rushed through the legislative process.

    For the record: I am *NOT* a libertarian. I have no use for libertarian ideology. It is naive and completely unworkable.

    It just seems to me that the solution to criminal problems (and theft on this scale is clearly a criminal problem) is dull, ordinary police-work. It's very effective, but it takes time and resources and it does not generate a ton of publicity when the politicians need to be seen doing something about an issue they simply do not understand.

    I do wonder if there would have been the political will to authorize an investigation and infiltrate the likes of Enron and Worldcom when their stocks were still going up? Would the public have been in favour of hauling Lay and Ebbers off to jail when their own investments were still doing great?

    I would like to thing so, but somehow I doubt it...

  • If a credit reporting agency is providing false statements that are damaging to your reputation (your credit is part of your reputation), can you not sue them for defamation of character? Libel?

    Right now the burden of fixing these issues is too great for consumers. I don't see how reporting false items on a credit report is any different from libel.

    Of course, IANAL. I am only using common sense here. And we know there is no room for that in the judicial system. ;-)
  • Here in Joisey, should it happen dat some low life scum steals your identity, Vinnie pays dem a visit. He users der eyes for icepick holders, and shoves der kneecaps up der ass. Did I say Vinnie? I must have mispoke myself. Vinnie was at a party in Rhode Island, with a bunch of identity theft victims. You know, a support group. Dey all swears he was der. Dat was a terible ting dat happened to dat guy. Maybe he should retire now.

  • If you just use the word piracy often enough the government will pass lots and lots of bills to protect us from them thar pirates!

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"

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