Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Cringely on Identity Theft

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the who-ordered-all-this-porn dept.

Security 630

Boiled Frog writes "Prompted by the theft of his mail, Cringely investigates how easy it is to steal identities from government publications. In this article he explains how he got the identities of 300,000 people which he calculates to be valued at $65 billion dollars. If Cringely can do it, anyone can."

cancel ×

630 comments

theft (-1, Redundant)

xtturbo (698717) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942835)

i pray that it never happens to me...

Re:theft (-1, Redundant)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942894)


-1, Fucking Obvious.

FIRST POST! (-1, Troll)

Tirel (692085) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942836)

This FIRST POST! brought to you by the GNAA.

./)/)
(@.@)
(")(")

Re:FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

xtturbo (698717) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942857)

hah suffer, i got first post, not u

Re:FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Tirel (692085) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942861)

aw fuck, i suppose i should go kill myself now.

Re:FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

xtturbo (698717) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942885)

rofl :) bugger eh?

WILDCAT CAPTUARED TEH FLAG! BLUE TEAM ON TEH SPOKE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942838)

Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (5, Informative)

Lysol (11150) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942839)

I had my identity stolen about 8 years ago. It suuuuuked!

In San Francisco, when some people move out, they throw all this crap they don't need anymore on the curb. I saw this thoughout the city, time and time again, so when it came time for me to move, I did the same.

I got rid of almost everything! This included, tons of old papers - possibly old pay stubs. Big NO NO! At one point, I even noticed some people looking through the big pile. "Just people who like crap", I thought.

Six months later, the Postmaster General Attorney's office in San Jose calls me saying they've arrested someone on postal fraud that had my name and info in his little black book. It was under a section that basically was ready to have a drivers license and social security card issued in my name with this guy's picture!

To make a long story short, the guy went to prison and I had to notify all agencies where I had any type of id or credit/bank card to put a watch on them for the next six months.

My lesson learned: shread everything.

However, online, this is a totally different issue and the only thing I can suggest and do about that is to check into companies and try to make sure they are responsible about how they store your credit-card information. I've personally written to all the online companies I use to ask as how they protect my information. If it ever seemed like they weren't up to snuff, I explained my concerns and asked for some sort of reassurences. Although, I must admit, that's not the best thing and sometimes letters to the BBB and other groups/agencies are necessary.

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (5, Informative)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942910)

To make a long story short, the guy went to prison and I had to notify all agencies where I had any type of id or credit/bank card to put a watch on them for the next six months.

Good to hear this person actually went to jail. I should add that the other thing you should do is check your credit history and cancel all old credit cards that you may not even know are still active. A friend of mine had someone get access to three old credit cards that he had cut up, but had not actually cancelled the accounts. A couple of years later he was surprised to find the companies were telling him he owed $30k worth of charges.

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (3, Informative)

nairb107 (596097) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943045)

Or keep an eye on the old ones. You don't want to cancel older accounts, especially if they had a good history b/c that in effect shortens your credit history and lowers your credit score. Be careful not to screw your own credit record while trying to prevent other from doing the same.

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (5, Interesting)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942917)

I was somewhat luckier. On the same day, I got a notice from a small long-distance telephone company saying I had an account that was being sent to collections, as well as another note saying that the account had been closed and that no further action was necessary. When I called, it turned out someone had used a credit card number in my name to set up an account and wrack up charges, and was eventually recognized as a fraud and everything was closed out.

The scary part was that if I hadn't called these guys up, I never would have known about the identity theft. How often does something like that occur, where the situation gets resolved but the intended victim is never informed???

How I Deal With Identity Theft (5, Funny)

jbottero (585319) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943069)

My solution to discurage anyone from stealing my identity has been to default on all my student loans, consistently pay my credit cards a few month late, and write anti-government propeganda letters to the local paper (amazingly, I still have my DoD security clearence!). The scammers run screaming...

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (2, Insightful)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943112)


A similar thing happened here in France.
But it was in a way more serious since the French have "Unfalsifiable" (yeah right), identity papers.

A guy got arrested for not paying his fines for travelling with the trains without ticket.. (If you get busted without a ticket they take your name and address and send you the fine.)

Problem was that he didn't live in France at all but in one of the former colonies, and had never actually been to those places where he was supposed to have been.

After a bit of investigation he found quite a number of bank accounts in his name, in various banks. Along with other things he was supposed to be doing.. All in all, quite a activity he was supposed to be practicing.

He finally found out that some years ago his father had lost the family's papers, along with his ID card (they were stolen). And his old ID card was then falsified by replacing the picture with a picture of someone else.

When the new "Unfalsifiable" cards came along, the guy who was using his old card, managed to replace it with the new "Unfalsifiable" version..

With that card, he then collected fines for everyting we felt like doing..

The guy wasn't sentenced in the end and got an apoligy from the judge.

This story does a good job of demonstrating that the weakest security link is almost always human and phrases like "Unfalsifiable" and "Unbreakable" are not good for anything but selling the product to the public.

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (1)

garrulous (653996) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943170)

There's that problem of "leaky" abstraction layers again. They can make the medium itself as strong as adamantite, but if the data submitted is bogus then their "unfalsifiable" IDs are just so much plastic.

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (4, Funny)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943120)

My lesson learned: shread everything.

EXCEPT the DICTIONARY!

Re:Article is spot on. Happened to me.. (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943149)

I had my identity stolen about 8 years ago. It suuuuuked! ...My lesson learned: shread everything.

My solution to identity theft protection is to maintain a mediocre credit history. That way, if my identity is hijacked, they can't do anything with it!

morons don't really know who they/you are anyway (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942852)

so keep it to yourself.

that old tune title (hope we don't get 'busted' for using it) "make the world go away", takes on new/varied meaning in these times.

the prevalent notion that 'everything will be taken care of' without yOUR knowledge/participation is insidiously misleading.

in our estimation, the biggest 'threat' against US (aside from continuing to fire bullinedly into the 'crowd', whilst demanding applause), would be a failure to recognize our 'role' in the problems. we're victims for sure, but whoare ALL the perpetrators (see also: corepirate nazi puppets), gets lost in the ?pr? ?firm? generated propaganda spew.

consult with/trust in yOUR creator. seek others of non-aggressive behaviours/intentions. that's the spirit.

the lights ARE coming up now. pay attention (to yOUR heart, for example). that could lead to new ways (see also: newclear power plan) of thinking about/dealing with, the needs/rights of others EVERYWHERE on the planet.

having the attention span of a gnat, & similar ambitions, might be ok if you are just planning to be a consumer/type one liners.

take care of each other, you're all we've got. we're here for you. get ready to see the light.--

worth reading, again, with feeling.

"It takes a long time to teach the judges, legislators, and public to understand technology. Right now, they're getting a strong dose of "education" on the Internet's threats and harms, and not hearing so much about its potential. Shouts of "piracy" often outweigh consideration of how we might communicate with more open media formats, but judges like Stephen Wilson in the Grokster case are starting to listen through the shouting. We're encouraging more people to think about how the law shapes technological innovation, how the technology itself can foster creativity, and then to do something about it to advance the public interest."--

"The stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values to accompany the scientific and freedom revolutions engulfing the earth. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing"-oriented society to a "person"-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."

Real reason (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942856)


Cringely's just pissed that his DVD copy of "Beef Chunks in Gravy" was stolen from the mail.

This is really scary (2, Informative)

ViolentGreen (704134) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942863)

There is so much personal information out there and some people are so uninformed about who not to give this information to or how to secure the information that they have been given. This problem will only get worse. I for one have no idea how to deal with it.

Identity theft is indeed a big problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942865)

In fact, someone has stolen my account. I'm not really an AC...

Watch out - this could happen to you.

Re:Identity theft is indeed a big problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943102)

"I'm Anonymous Coward!

And so is my wife!"

Are you dissing Cringely? (3, Interesting)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942872)

I mean, he's no H4Xx0R god or anything, but he seems to be fairly knowledgable.

Re:Are you dissing Cringely? (1)

EpsCylonB (307640) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942972)

If Cringely can do it, anyone can.

I thought that too...

Re:Are you dissing Cringely? (2, Informative)

The Old Burke (679901) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943116)

I you had RTFA, you would have seen that he said it himself...

Office of Redundancy Office (5, Funny)

jratcliffe (208809) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942878)

"...valued at $65 billion dollars"

Come on editors, I know it's early on the West Coast, but really.

Re:Office of Redundancy Office -- RTFA (-1, Informative)

mgessner (46612) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942953)

Did you even read the article? He specifically mentions that figure.

It comes from his ability to gather X number of names, and each name has an estimated rip-off values (as computed by the U.S. Secret Service) of $217,000 (which was an average computed from a sample of identity thefts in one study).

Next time, RTFA.

Re:Office of Redundancy Office -- RTFA (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943025)

Pssst, Mr. Hawking. Try that one again.

$65 billion dollars

Did you get it that time? Lets try again..watch closely now!

----> $ <----65 billion ----> dollars <----


Did that help?

Re:Office of Redundancy Office -- RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943028)

Did you even read the post? He's not talking about the amount.

Next time, RTFP.

Re:Office of Redundancy Office -- RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943159)

Did you RTFP? The poster was referring to the fact that the dollar sign signifies dollars; thus it is redundant to say "$65 billion dollars". "$65 billion" or "65 billion dollars" would have been correct.

Next time, use your brain.

Re:Office of Redundancy Office (-1, Redundant)

tbase (666607) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942956)

Did you read the article and see where that figure came from? RTFA. He uses government figures to arrive at that amount, and then acknowledges that he might not be able to steal that much, but it would be in the "multiple billions"

Re:Office of Redundancy Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943051)

Somebody forgot to turn his brain on....

Re-read that post you're complaining about...

Re:Office of Redundancy Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943082)

You've confused "redundancy" (repeating something) with "inaccuracy" (getting it wrong).

Re:Office of Redundancy Office (1)

tbase (666607) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943142)

You're confusing the post with the Subject. Either that, or I totally missed what was redundant about the original story.

Re:Office of Redundancy Office (-1, Redundant)

revividus (643168) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942962)

If each of those 300,000 people is capable of getting over $2 million credit, then sure, it's worth 65 billion.

Can people get that much credit? Shoot, 6 years ago I couldn't even talk the bank of Oklahoma into lending me 2 grand for a car. :-)

oops, extra 0 (1)

revividus (643168) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942991)

I'm a moron. Mod me to oblivion, I guess that's how it goes. That's what I get for using a calculator too fast.

It's RIAA Math! (2, Funny)

Ikeya (7401) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943062)

It's the latest trend in Mathematics! In reality he's got data worth about $.35, but when you extrapolate $200,000+ per infraction, he's on a goldmine!
I propose they start teaching this in textbooks in elementary school! Then everyone will have access to this revolutionary idea!

I'm Robert X Cringley (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942881)

Some bastard stole my identity and wrote that article under my name!

Which goes to show you... (4, Informative)

Flabby Boohoo (606425) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942896)

why you use a PO box, like I do.

Don't have to worry about such things.

Re:Which goes to show you... (5, Informative)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943059)


Good idea but many places won't deliver to a PO Box as they've been used for fraud for eons. They want a brick & mortar delivery point.

Re:Which goes to show you... (4, Informative)

jargoone (166102) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943163)

Go to one of those shipping/copy places like Mailboxes, Etc. Lots of those have boxes, so your address will be their address, with a number after it, like

123 This St. # 666

They'll take and sign for packages for you, too.

Sounds like a fine businessmodel to me! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942899)

1) Do stuff for free.
2) ?
3) Get identities worth $65 billions.
4) Profit!

You want some wine with that cheese? (0, Troll)

Seth Finklestein (582901) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942901)

Jeez, Cringely. First you ordered a book from amazon.com, one of the most consumer-hostile companies on the Internet given their "privacy policy" and dependence on trivial patents.

Then, you expect the corrupt government postal service to deliver it on time.

Here's a tip, Cringely. Go to this place called a "book store." It sells books for cash. You may have been able to "save" 50 cents on a Kelley Blue Book from spamazon.com, but how much is your privacy worth?

Pay for everything in cash. Never work for an employer that demands your Social Security number; if asked for it, make one up and use it instead. The algorithm for validating SSNs is freely available. Don't trust your money with "banks" or "credit cards." The only way to prevent identity theft is to protect your own identity as if it were a golden object -- or, as the French say, un objet d'or.

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (5, Insightful)

TheGreenLantern (537864) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942973)

Never work for an employer that demands your Social Security number; if asked for it, make one up and use it instead.

Yeah, cause this will never come back to bite you in the ass. I'm quite sure that when your employer finds out that you gave them a fraudulent SSN, you'll all just have a great big laugh over it, and they won't be calling the Department of Homeland Security or anything.

or, more likely... (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943021)

the IRS. I imagine SSN is used routinely to identify for tax information, social security, insurance purposes...

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (2, Insightful)

kormoc (122955) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943049)

And they take out the tax money and put it in someone else's name and you owe them tons of money and someone else is getting a nice big fat refund check, it's fine as well, right?

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (4, Informative)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943108)

I don't suppose you thought about the fact that the suggestion is hilariously funny?

Your employer is the one entity which is required to ask for your SSN -- it's used to pay your FICA and Medicare taxes, as well as to route your employer's contribution to your account. Those taxes? Well, if Social Security is still around when you retire, they're what sets your benefit level...

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943024)

What kind of employers don't demand your SSN?

Oh, and another thing, when you're making up an SSN, be sure not to use mine, because I sure don't need getting taxed for your income in addition to my own.

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (1)

unixdad (704399) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943039)

Here's a tip, Cringely. Go to this place called a "book store." It sells books for cash. You may have been able to "save" 50 cents on a Kelley Blue Book from spamazon.com, but how much is your privacy worth?

Most people (consumers) don't recognize that there may be a privacy problem with Amazon-- for them it's a convenience issue, even if they end up paying _more_ for the book through Amazon.

Never work for an employer that demands your Social Security number; if asked for it, make one up and use it instead.

Since you reference SSN, I'm going to assume that you are in the US. Do you follow your own advice? Have you ever been caught doing this? Don't you think the government will notice that they're getting tax payments for a SSN that doesn't have a person attached to it?

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (2, Funny)

jandrese (485) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943087)

I love the smell of trolls in the morning. I bet your employer will love reporting your taxable income to the IRS with a fradulant SSN. I guess it is true that you're identity will be protected if you keep all of your money in a big wad of unmarked nonsequental bills under your matress, but banks offer other services beyond mere identiy theft that you may be interested in.

Oh, you forgot one thing. Make sure you never ever give out your true name, no matter who it is. Once they have your real name they'll own you. Also, make sure to use the heavy duty aluminum foil, the regular stuff doesn't block the mind-reading rays for crap.

Re:You want some wine with that cheese? (1)

avdp (22065) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943151)

Yes, I am sure the IRS will be very happy to hear when your employer says to them "sorry, he refused to give the number to us". I have news for you, your employer must get your SS#. That's the law.

Of course, at least where I work, they use the SS# for more than just payroll purposes. I.e. it's my ID to get in the place in the morning (it's on my swipe card, or I can type it in). THAT is wrong.

$65 billion? Ridiculous! (4, Funny)

Samurai Cat! (15315) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942909)

I'll only go as high as $50 billion and not a penny more!

Credit monitoring services (5, Informative)

jargoone (166102) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942913)

I'm usually not paranoid, but talk of identity theft, and nearly being a victim (copied credit card when I visited Mexico), convinced me subscribe to a credit monitoring service. They notify you right away of changes to your profile, and give you free periodic credit reports. I'm trying to start a small business, so it's more important now than ever.

True Credit [truecredit.com] turned out to be the cheapest at $11/quarter for the basic service. This is not a referral link, and I'm not affiliated with them in any way. Just sharing information.

Credit monitoring services-digital privacy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943061)

An on-topic [amazon.com] book. More people should be concerned, especially with the SSN being used as a universial identification number.

Murder is easy too (5, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942920)

You cant prevent crimes from happening, you can only improve the ability to catch the criminals, and reduce the damages.

Worried about ID theft? Keep a close eye on your credit card bills, credit scores, etc.. Buy a paper shredder. Shred all bank statements and whatnot before you throw them out. Internet-shminternet, dumpster diving is the fastest way to someone's finances. Get the carbons at the gas station, or stores where they still use the old carbon-thinger credit card machine.

Cringely is a blowhard trying to scare people, but frankly this isn't news. Using the 'net really doesn't make this easier - it's always been easy.

I knew someone who got screwed big time by a gas station who would keep the carbons, and double bill her every time she filled up, the cash going straight into the owners pocket. She was a dope for letting it go on so long, as she never bothered scrutinizing her Visa bills. Turned out the station was owned by a Russian mobster. This was long before the world wide weeb.

Re:Murder is easy too (4, Insightful)

tbase (666607) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943035)

You forgot "never put outgoing mail in your mailbox" when you were plagerizing the "blowhard". Oops- sorry, you have to RTFA to plagerize it :-)

The article's point is that ID theft on a large scale requires more than dumpster diving or a crooked gas station, and he's pointing out that what ID Theives are doing to cause a 4 to 5 billion dollar problem one person at a time can be easily automated and there's a 300,000 name database of ssn's and dob's waiting to happen.

Did I already say RTFA?

Re:Murder is easy too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943066)

You didn't read the article. He never mentions the net, he is talking about taking it to the next level with computers. By crossreferencing databases, he came up with name, addy, soc, b-day for 300,000 people.

That's the next big thing.

Money isn't the issue (4, Informative)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942925)

Most instutions will cover your butt now if you get your ID stolen. So it isn't the money that costs you, its the work.

You have to apply for coverage, and show evidence that your ID was in deed stolen. That can take months or years! And a lot of effort goes into all that. One of the worst parts is trying to restore your credit rating. While the whole process really shouldn't cost very much money ( $1000) it costs a quarter of your life to repair all the damage.

Re:Money isn't the issue (1)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942999)

Sorry, that's supposed to read LESS THAN $1000, and that should be the worst. $1000 is two or three nice computers afterall.

Re:Money isn't the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943073)

money may not be an issue for the person who had their identity stolen, but is certainly does cause someone to lose money: either the credit card company/bank, their insurers or the retailer is going to lose the money.

now, you may not have much love for any of the above companies, but the theft does end up driving consumer banking costs up over the long term.

65 Billion Dollars? (4, Funny)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942952)

If I were Cringely, I would have sold those names and now be the proud new owner of Microsoft. Free the source!

Sandra Bullock's in trouble now... (2, Insightful)

Channard (693317) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942957)

This is news? I've been living in a tent, typing this on an abacus and wearing a tinfoil suit since I saw the hyper-realistic 'The Net'.

I mean, come on, it *is* easy to steal someone's identity, but what doesn't get enough attention is the human factor. Not enough people are willing to actually query oddities and if a document looks vaguely official, they'll accept it. After all, if you were trying to sign someone up for a credit card, would you query their ID and lose the possible comission?

Avoiding the Post Office. (4, Informative)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942958)

From the article:"No, I mean what are you going to do about replacing my book?"

"Why would we replace your book?"

"BECAUSE YOU LOST IT????"


This is exactly why I use Fed Ex or UPS when ordering things. They can track your packages and they take responsibility when they screw up. Perhaps the Postal Service could take a lesson?

Re:Avoiding the Post Office. (5, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943002)

Priority mail with insurance.

Fed-Ex or UPS won't replace your item if you didn't get insurance, either.

We just got a PC shipped back to us from the field by UPS. The box was smashed, and the machine looks like CowboyNeal sat on it. Picking it up I could hear all the fancy shmance electromonical doodads rattling around inside the twisted case.

UPS won't do shit about it, because the fool didn't pay the 5 bucks for insurance.

Re:Avoiding the Post Office. (2, Informative)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943101)

FedEx insures everything up to $100. If you want more insurance, you can
get it by paying a little more for it (note the "Declared Value" field
on the FedEx Airway bill).

Re:Avoiding the Post Office. (1)

Laplace (143876) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943172)

This is exactly why I use Fed Ex or UPS when ordering things. They can track your packages and they take responsibility when they screw up.

They do? That's news to me. I've had plenty of stuff fsck'ed up by them.

Perhaps the Postal Service could take a lesson?

They don't need to with all of those fat government subsidies.

voting records (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942966)

yeah, those old voting records are darned
interesting. not only do you get a nice
package of data on anybody who ever voted,
but if you are really clever you can find
dead people and really go to town... vote
for them, steal their identities... oops,
no, you can't. because the republican party
has already done it to pad the votes for
their honest and upstanding candidates.

think i'm making this up?

Re:voting records (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942976)

think i'm making this up?

Naw, I think you saw it on the Simpsons.

Re:voting records (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943128)

nope. actually i saw it close up after my
mother died. she continued voting for 8
years. absentee.

UK line of defence against Identity Theft (5, Interesting)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942981)

If you're in the UK; you can register your name / address combination with CIFAS:

http://www.cifas.org.uk

The service is operated on behalf of the UK financial institutions by Equifax; and will add a layer of authorisation to your name / address combinarion when arranging credit etc. It probably means that you won't be able to buy stuff on instant credit; but the for the hassle that identity theft can bring I think it's worth it. Registration costs 12 quid for 12 months.

Personally i'm amazed that institutions will lend large amounts of money without a definite proof of your identity; but I guess that's consumer forces for you - Dixons want you to be able to walk out of their store with that 32" wide screen TV purchased on instant credit. For all the sales that brings; they absorb the liability.

Obvious solution (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6942982)

Just keep your credit rating so low that even *if* someone stole it, they wouldn't be able to get anything.

It also helps if you keep your bank account overdrawn, all your bills behind, and just generally be a lousy target for ID Theft.

At least, that's my suggestion.

Re:Obvious solution (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943155)

It's funny, but wrong!

In this economy, look at the car commercials on TV. 0% financing! Everyone drives away!

The fact is, car salesmen don't give a rats ass about your credit score, or if you can afford the vehicle. The lendors do, but they profit more when you cant pay.

So the bank offers you 15% financing over 6 years? So your debt/income ratio is 85%. They don't care!

Like I said, they profit when you can't pay, they collect a payment or two, then you default, they reposess, sell the vehicle again! Hooray pre-owned BMWs!

I was watching Discovery Channel where a couple undercover cops went and bought a Hummvee with a bunch of totally made up bogus documents that cost them 20 bucks on the street, no credit history, and $1000 bucks in cash to put down. They then came back and explained to the salesman just how they conned him.

Thing is, with that cash down I can use your identity to buy a $80,000 car, drive it straight to the chop shop, head out and buy another.

Just go ahead and have a bad credit rating! (1)

g0hare (565322) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942989)

Pretend you're, oh, say, Donald TRump. Run up a bunch of bills, then go bankrupt. You'll still have the junk, and if your credit rating is -1000, then your identitiy is useless.

One Problem (4, Insightful)

jetkust (596906) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942995)

Possibly this wouldn't be such a big problem if a more relevant credit history was availiable to people without haivng to pay, wait, and damage their credit just to get a report.

Hmmmm.... (0, Troll)

SilentSheep (705509) | more than 10 years ago | (#6942998)

Scare-mongering anyone???

Why not photo id? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943000)

Maybe someone on slashdot knows: why doesn't my bank teller ask me for photo ID?

All they ever ask to see is the bank book. Are bank accounts not tied to actual people, but instead are transferable, simply by giving away the bank book? If not, why don't they ask for my government or bank-issue photo ID?

Re:Why not photo id? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943068)

Wells Fargo does ask for a drivers license when doing anything except depositing money into an account.

Re:Why not photo id? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943076)

I dunno about your bank, but mine makes me show ID to make a withdrawal or cash a check, but not a deposit.

Which makes sense. I mean I don't think there are any lunatics running around putting money in strangers bank accounts. I wish there were.

They even make me put a thumbprint on the checks now, if I'm not an account holder at that bank.

Last time I was at the bank I waited 15 minutes while some fool threw a tantrum because they wouldn't accept his expired out-of-state drivers license as ID.

Ha ha! I got that in one person! (1, Funny)

Typingsux (65623) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943004)

I got some dude named billy gates.

Real Identity Theft (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943029)

Thank God my Slashdot user ID is still safe.

Re:Real Identity Theft (0)

ericisbananaman (699862) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943088)

This stuff is childs play which is why next time you look in the bank you will be -$10,000 and I will be on a yacht with 2 dozen swedish maidens....

Re:Real Identity Theft (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943122)

You know, I should steal my own identity if it could get me $10,000 and on a yacht with 2 dozen swedish maidens.

Easy solution to the problem (1)

arf_barf (639612) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943036)

Steal an identity. Use it every day. If somebody steals your stolen identity then no big loss....

SSN used as identifer (5, Interesting)

Cade144 (553696) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943038)

In the article it is mentioned that your Social Security Number is used as a universal identifier and as "proof" of identity.
This is not a good thing.

I work in the medical records/medical billing industry and a patient's SSN is one of the vital bits of information we collect and use to help index records.
Also the patient's date of birth.
For billing purposes, we need the patient's home address.
The health insurance company also needs all this information. In fact, if we don't supply all of the patient's personal information, they often don't pay claims.

We try to protect private information. We have yearly training, and monthly filers reminding us of the importance of protecting confidential infromatin. We have every bit of discarded paper shreded, and we have pretty good locks on our doors, and we have a fairly paranoid firewall, but the truly determined employee could always get their hands on thousands of patient records with everything needed for identity theft.

It's probably the same way at Hospitals and Insuance companies too. Too many people have access to private information, and the social and technological controls on it are too weak.

I hope that no one who has access to my personal information decides to do a bit of creative fundraising.

I don't have any answers, but we ought to think of solutions pretty soon.

In UK (1)

scottme (584888) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943040)

We do a few things rather differently, and I don't think this kind of mail theft would be at all likely to happen here.

First, we don't have those crazy mailboxes on posts out in front of our properties, where anyone can (a) see you have mail and (b) take it. Instead, we have a letterbox, usually in the front door, and items get posted through this and end up inside the house. The key point being that you need access into the premises to obtain delivered mail. Casual theft of mail is simply not that easy.

If you plan to be away for any length of time and you don't want mail to be delivered, you can arrange to have the post office hold all your mail, and then deliver it all on a specified date when you expect to be back. This is a chargeable service, which costs around 5 if I recall correctly, and has always worked very well for me.

Communal bins are the big problem (1)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943104)

It's not so much incoming mail that's the problem - your identity can easily be stolen from stuff you throw out - especially if you have those large community bins and not a private wheely bin.

Pre-printed credit card application forms are the killer - not only do they give the thief a name and address; but the application has probably been pre-screened so you know that the victim is credit worthy.

Take a thrown out bank statement and a utility bill into Comet and you can walk out with a home cinema system.

Re:In UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943107)

Every cloud engenders not a storm. -- William Shakespeare, "Henry VI"

I have the solution (4, Funny)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943052)

Wreck your credit score every 7 years by declaring bankruptcy.

Then no one will want to steal your ID :-)

Benefits of cash (1)

bigberk (547360) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943053)

We North Americans depend too much on plastic. I now make an effort to use cash whenever I can. With credit and debit transactions there are stubs with identifiers created, and often carelessly disposed off. Benefits of using cash over plastic:
  1. Eliminates the chance of a stranger/criminal finding your account #, PIN, or card numbers
  2. Keeps you out of advertising/purchasing habits databases which all credit card companies keep
  3. Helps you stay out of debt by spending only what you actually have in your hand
  4. Keeps you truly anonymous while making purchases
  5. Cash looks cool

Also happend to me.. fortunately he was a idiot (1)

genner (694963) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943064)

My identity was stolen a while back. Fortunately all he did was use my driver liscense to get store credit where he purchased a power washer. This was as far as he got before being aressted. Makes me wonder why in the world he would steal my idenity and not buy something better than a power washer.

What CD is he referencing? (1)

unixdad (704399) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943078)

Anybody know what CD or federal agency he is referring to? I want to know if I'm at risk?

Stealing bank details (5, Interesting)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943081)

In the last couple of months there have been an increasing amount of very sophisticated email scams.

For instance, E-Gold members (and others) have been receiving emails like this

Dear e-gold user.

At 09.05.2003 our company was attacked by unknown
persons. Out administrators is working on the database restoring.
If you have an active account, please check if it is still active, your
current balance is right and all transactions can be processed.
If you find that your account is inactive, please letus know
immediately at e-mail service@e-gold.com
To check your account, please click on the link below:
https://e-gold.com/sci_asp/payments.asp


It looks official, doesn't it? And the link looks ok too. But it is an html email, and the actual link went to a page located at e-gold2.com, which looked exactly like the real e-gold site. Thus the fraudsters were able to get peoples log-on details. More here [e-gold.com] .

In the UK, many people have been receiving emails that look as if they are from Barclays bank (one of the biggest in the UK). It is a similar scam to the e-gold one. More here [theregister.co.uk] .

I myself have recieved and email asking me to update my ebay account details. Only on close inspection did I realise that it was a fraud.

I find this extremely worrying. Personally I am probably like many Slashdotters - paranoid about security and difficult to catch out. However most people aren't like that, and this new type of scam email is an extremely worrying development, because it could catch a lot of people out. People really need to be informed about this type of scam, but I've yet to see much in the press about it. Any journalists reading..?

Scary websites... (4, Informative)

Cassanova (578879) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943085)

My wife and I tried buying something on the web on this one particular site. It asked me to register since I was buying stuff for the first time there. Filled up everything on the "new account" page and hit "register me". The page came back in error saying the id I was trying to register was already taken so I had to try another one. Not so bad. What was bad though was THE PAGE RE-LOADED WITH ALL THE FIELDS IN IT PRE-FILLED WITH THAT ALREADY-EXISTING USER ID's DETAILS! Address, phone number, first/last names everything on there for the taking.

Scaaary. We politely backed out of the site and decided to buy elsewhere.

Mobile Phone Companies Require SS# (3, Informative)

popo (107611) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943092)


Recently I signed a new cellphone contract and they *would not* allow me to sign the contract without giving them my SS# (which I imagine is for a credit check). What's the legality of that? Is there any way to avoid handing over SS#'s in these situations? Its terrifying that cell-phone services have huge databases of millions of Social Security numbers.

Anyone?

Social Security Numbers should be public (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6943113)

SSN should never be used as a validator. They should be treated as part of a person's name, distinguishing them from other people with the same name.

If the govt announce that by 2006, they were going to publish everyone's name and SSN, and if you currently use SSN as a validator, you need to change now or face fines of $100k/day, maybe we could do something about this.

But I doubt it will happen.

Genious (0, Offtopic)

222 (551054) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943114)

Say what you will about him, but almost anything of Cringelys that i've read turns out to be insightful and informative, and this article is no exception.

Which Federal Agency? (1)

pestilence4hr (652767) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943123)

What I produced in that hour was all the information required to steal the identities of 300,000 people, most of whom would be considered to have high financial (if not emotional or artistic) net worth.
So, he doesn't mention which Federal agency, but he mentions that most of the identities he harvested would be considered to have high financial net worth. Could this be the payroll list for some major government outfit? The IRS? Or is he just looking at some public record of net worths that is published by the IRS? For an example of the former, go to any public university. Their entire payroll is required by law to be public information. If this contained SSN's, there would certainly be problems...

Watch for Wrong Solution (4, Insightful)

4of12 (97621) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943132)


Public records are better if you want to be a crook because the Freedom of Information Act makes them completely available.

Cringely was quite correct when he identified two parts of the problem: the ubiquity of using SSN as both an identifier and as authorization (or using credit card numbers this way).

It would really be much better if the institutions we dealt with would accept identities and authorizations that were only valid for the specific transactions we conducted with them.

But no, "people can't remember all those numbers". Well, people ought to have a private key that is really private, and public keys that anyone can use to verify that person X really authorized some transaction Y.

But rely upon government to come out with a bad solution to this problem.

The FoIA safeguards, which are important to keeping government transparent and more accountable to the people, will be abolished (as they have already been for various cases deemed to involve national security or "terrorism"), to "increase security for the citizens".

We'll be trading a great deal in terms of liberty and knowledge of whether our government is acting properly for very little in the way of security.

Well... (1)

muffen (321442) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943135)

... atleast his getting an investigation :)

It happens more than you think! (5, Informative)

mr_resident (222932) | more than 10 years ago | (#6943162)

After I had my ID swiped by a ID-less loser, I started taking precautions:

Xerox/scan all your bank cards, credit cards, drivers license, etc front and back. Write down all the contact info and make sure you keep a copy in a safe place. NOT YOUR WALLET! If anything is lost or stolen call immediately!

Open a second bank account to use for online transactions. I transfer only the amount of money I need to cover gas, lunch, online stuff to it. I don't use an ATM card on my primary checking/savings. If someone grabs a carbon, they don't get access to anymore than the few bucks I keep as a buffer.

And as many have and will say here: Don't give out your SSN, check your credit report regularly for new lines of credit and shred early - shred often!
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...