[EAS]Identity Theft

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sat Mar 24 18:41:00 EST 2001

Subject:   Identity Theft

Dear Colleagues -

According to a recent article in The Economist which describes the
experience of a George Hendrick
identity theft is one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in
the US, with 750,000 cases per year, possibly more.

> Identity theft generally fits a pattern. The perpetrator steals the
> Social Security number of the victim and enough other supporting
> information to apply for credit cards, rent an apartment, open a
> mobile-phone account or take on some other financial obligation.
> The bills are diverted to a "new" address. Perpetrators may pay the
> accounts for some time, usually so that they can raise the credit
> limit and make a bigger killing later. When the perpetrator
> eventually defaults on these obligations--leaving bills that average
> $17,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission--the creditors
> come looking for the real George Hendricks of the world.
> Consumers are protected by law from most fraudulent charges over
> $50. The real wreckage of identity theft lies elsewhere. Victims
> must first prove to sceptical creditors that the charges are
> fraudulent and then work tirelessly to clean up their credit
> record.

Things can get much worse if your "Doppelganger" turns felonious.

A spectacular case of multiple identity theft by a particularly
skillful thief was the subject of recent news accounts:

How NYPD Cracked the Ultimate Cyberfraud

It makes fascinating and disturbing reading. We are building much
of our social and financial infrastructure on very shaky
administrative and technological foundations. As a result there is
always a Big Brother willing to step in. Meaningful progress lies
in a better understanding of what constitutes security in a
networked world. Education must address the people issues which
loom as large as the technology issues, as demonstrated by the
above stories about how personal information was obtained.*


* See also http://www.yale.edu/engineering/eng-info/msg00585.html

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