ID Theft

In  2002 Walter Kevin Scott worked as benefits manager for the Indiana Public Employees’ Retirement Fund (PERF).  Mr. Scott had used a false Social Security number in the hiring process, and the State of Indiana had hired him unaware that he had served time in a federal penitentiary –  for identity theft!

During his trial it was disclosed that from November 2001 to August 2002, Scott had unlimited access to the Social Security numbers of 1.2 million current and former public employees and their families  –  the equivalent of nearly one in every six Hoosiers.  Investigators found personal information and pension fund balances of 750 people during a search of Scott’s home after he quit working at the fund. 

few years later we began to hear more about breaches, most notably in universities.  In May of 2005, the Lafayette Journal and Courier listed ten universities that had already reported breaches in that year, including Purdue and IU.  Also in 2005 it was reported that identity thieves set up fake businesses and gained access to up to 160,000 consumer records from data broker ChoicePoint.

Heartland Payment Systems Inc. – one of the largest processors of credit and debit card transactions in the U.S – was hacked in 2009.  With vague explanation, one local bank sent new debit cards to replace ones that were not even near expiration.  When the Target and Home Depot names appeared in the news we all noticed, but how many of us would even recognize the name Heartland Payment Systems or ChoicePoint?

2014 Krebs on Security reported that a nationwide beauty products chain discovered a breach in its payment systems and a fresh batch of 282,000 stolen credit and debit cards reportedly went on sale in a popular underground crime store.  That same month, Indiana University reported that information including names, addresses and Social Security numbers of those who attended any of the university’s campuses from 2011 to 2014 was unsecured for more than 11 months because security protections weren’t working correctly.

Purdue associate professor of communication Josh Boyd stated, “The recent security breaches . . .  are a good reminder that the online environment involves no guarantees.  If you put information online and somebody really wants it, it’s vulnerable.

The use of a credit monitoring service cannot prevent ID theft, but it may help you to discover fraud.  About the well-publicized Target security breach during the 2013 Christmas shopping season, Purdue professor of cyber forensics Marcus Rogers warned, “People have to be vigilant for the next six months, year, even up to two years.

The ProtectMyID credit montoring service offered by Target is a product of Experian, a credit reporting agency, and monitors changes only to a consumer’s Experian credit report.

According to 
Consumer Reports, “The service can give consumers a false sense of security, and Consumer Reports can recommend this deal in its present form only as being better than nothing, and only for consumers who understand its significant shortcomings.

In 2014, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director 
Richard Cordray warnsyour information is always at risk, every day.”

Credit Karma is a popular service that provides no-cost (“free”) credit scores, credit reports, and credit monitoring from TransUnion.  
In 2014, Credit Karma settled with the Federal Trade commission on charges that the company “failed to take reasonable steps to secure” its mobile apps, ‘leaving consumers’ sensitive personal information at risk.

2012 article  explains that paying with a credit card or debit card makes you vulnerable, and mobile phone users are also a target.  The founder and president of Javelin Strategy & Research, a company mentioned in a popular 2012 Identity Theft Videohas warned that social media users are a growing target for identity theft.   Below is a report about the company’s 2016 identity fraud study.

Javelin’s 2017 study reveals that the incidence of identity fraud increased by 16% from the previous year, a record high since the company began tracking identity fraud in 2003.  There were two million more victims and the amount rose by nearly one billion dollars, to $16 billion.

Considering the outrageous number of major breaches reported during the past few years I’ve just been unable to keep up with tracking.  Nevertheless, quite some time ago I reached the same conclusion as Lafayette editorial cartoonist Dave Sattler following Jimmy John’s September 2014 breach, “The recent security breach by Jimmy John’s as well as Target, eBay, and Home 
Depot has many wondering How do we protect our identity . . .  One way is to bring back an old friend . . .”  (i.e., cash).

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