Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Speaking as a
victim of identity theft, there is absolutely nothing that an individual
can do to effectively protect themselves against identity theft.
Do you know what your identity is worth? Mine cost $200. That's what a
criminal paid on a street corner in Los Angeles. Add in $75 for a
low-grade forgery of a driver's license, and he was in business. To this
day, I have been unable to discover how my personal information ended up on
that street corner. I own and religiously use a high-quality confetti-cut
paper shredder. I have never received sensitive financial correspondence
at the unsecured mailbox at my home, instead renting a locked post office
box. I have made a policy of not disclosing my social security number
whenever possible. My SSN has never been on my driver's license. It has
never been printed on my checks. I do not carry my social security card in
my wallet, nor any other document bearing my SSN.
In spite of all this, my identity was stolen, and used to open a half-dozen
credit accounts in my name, which were then used to obtain almost $20,000
in merchandise. If the thief has just been a little smarter, he would have
doubled that figure.
What made all this possible? A credit industry that refuses to do even the
most basic of checks when someone walks into a retail establishment and
asks to open a credit account.
That's a quote from a victim named Tom Goltz, who makes a convincing case that self-defense is not enough.
He's right. Our personal information is in the hands of zillions of businesses with uncertain levels of computer security, personnel screening, and even basic honesty.