Saturday, June 10, 2006

Identity Theft Scare - Balderdash!!

A local TV station (10News in San Diego) showed a scary "Identity Theft" video the other night, and has an article on its web site here.

The scare is that identity thieves could find the Social Security number of a dead person on the Internet, then open credit cards by assuming the identity of the dead person using data found on the web (SSDI, genealogy, obituaries, etc).

This has raised some interest locally, and a local Congress-critter Susan Davis (D-53rd CA) has a bill that requires the SSA to provide death data to all credit card companies.

Discussion of this on the APG message board centers on:

1) The Social Security Administration doesn't post the SSDI on its web site - but it does sell it to private sources that do post it.

2) The primary customers for the SSDI are the credit agencies, credit card companies and financial institutions.

The article also indicates that thieves might be using obituaries to find out the names of relatives and heirs. But no obituary gives an SSN of the deceased.

The reality is that it takes several months for the death records to reach the SSA, for the SSA to add it to the SSDI, and in the meantime the heirs are trying to close accounts right and left with financial institutions who communicate with the credit agencies. And someone thinks that an identity thief will be able to find the SSN before the credit agencies determine the person is really dead? I doubt it.

I still haven't heard of an identity theft case where genealogy data has been used to create a false identity and someone made a profit from it. There have been plenty of theoretical scenarios more intricate than this one - I can think of several myself but I don't want to state them. Have you heard of an actual case? Just name one.

This all appears to be BALDERDASH to me - someone hypothesized that it could happen, they got some "expert" to raise hysteria about it, and proposed a non-solution to correct it, all the while giving more information to potential identity thieves. Argghh.

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