TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Do You Know Where Your Identity Has Been?

Do You Know Where Your Identity Has Been?

Monty Solomon (
Wed, 27 Apr 2005 01:46:28 -0400

To ensure that their personal information isn't hijacked, consumers
need to protect themselves. Here are some tips to help keep your data
out of the wrong hands.

By Hiawatha Bray, Globe Staff | April 24, 2005

"Who steals my purse steals trash," wrote William Shakespeare in

These days it's the other way around. Steal somebody's trash, dig out
his old credit card bills and tax documents, and you're well on the
way to emptying his purse, and making his existence a living hell.

It's called identity theft.

Real money is at stake, and lots of it -- more than $50 billion,
according to the Federal Trade Commission.

As always, crooks go where the money is, and where the pickings are
easy. Information about people -- from Social Security numbers to
computer passwords -- is all too easy to get, thanks to careless
consumers and businesses.

The recent rash of security breaches at data centers makes many
realize it's a bad problem -- though not as bad as we sometimes think.

According to TowerGroup, a Needham consulting firm, most of the
estimated 10 million cases of identity theft cited in 2002 were
standard credit card and check forgery scams.

Fewer than 200,000 were serious attempts to duplicate someone else's
identity, in an effort to get new credit cards, drivers licenses, or

Still, that's more than enough to worry about, especially considering
the immense impact of these crimes. Victims are often presumed guilty
and must spend lots of hours and dollars to prove their innocence and
clear their records.

State and federal lawmakers are rolling out legislation to toughen the
penalties for identity theft and to force companies to lock down their
customers' private data.

Better laws might help, but only to a point. We've got to protect ourselves.

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