[Dave Birch] Let’s suppose you are a master identity criminal and you’ve pulled off a heist: You’ve got away with the HMRC disks, or the POS keylogger or the hospital laptop. You’ve got my identity. Now what are you going to do with it? Open a bank account? Pretend to be me to commit acts of international terrorism?Take out a mortgage? Stalk someone via social networks? Get a credit card? Actually, it’s none of the above.

Wireless-phone accounts were the most frequent types of new accounts opened using ID theft, according to the report. These criminal cellphone account openings increased from 19 percent to 32 percent of new account fraud last year, exceeding fraudulently opened credit cards, loans, checking or savings accounts.

[From Javelin Strategy and Research » The Savvy Consumer: Don’t be taken in by drop in identity theft]

Generally speaking, most kinds of identity theft are really financial frauds of one form or another. If you want to sneak into NORAD, then you’re unlikely to find a useful ID floating around on the Net, you’d be targeting a more specific identity, blackmailing someone, that kind of thing. So if run-of-the-mill identity theft is about getting a bank loan in a bogus name, then I wonder if it might be economically more efficient for society as a whole to make getting bank loans harder to get rather than racking up costs defending against identity theft. if, in the U.S., you needed more than a plausible name, address and social security number combination to get a loan, then stealing the name, address and social security would presumably become less interesting to criminals.

Does this mean the nightmare described by Philip K. Dick in “Flow my tears, the policeman said” — the novel kindly sent to me by a blog reader, about which I can only say that I read it cover-to-cover on a single flight and spent the rest of the day thinking to myself “How can an author be so great?” — where you cannot do anything in the public sphere without waving your ID card over a reader? It’s plausible: if, say, banks can meet their KYC obligations by reading your ID card and the government accepts liability for the accuracy of the identification, then why would they do anything else?

There’s no determinism about this though. The alternative vision, of Little Sisters not Big Brother, can deliver: You shouldn’t need to provide your identity except in exceptional cases (eg, getting a mortgage, not buying gum) and your identity should remain protected until you do something wrong.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto

2 comments

  1. There are many ways that people can steal our identity. One, many people don’t own a shredder. Use it. And second, be carefull about who and where you place your information.

  2. And third, College students – Be careful online and in chat rooms and social networking. Identity thieves could be watching or
    trying to build a friendship.

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