Sunday, May 09, 2010

Identify Theft

Bruce Schneier (who is by no means a Pollyanna bout security matters) says:

Identity Theft Over-Reported

I'm glad to see that someone wrote this article. For a long time now, I've been saying that the rate of identity theft has been grossly overestimated: too many things are counted as identity theft that are just traditional fraud. Here's some interesting data to back that claim up:
Multiple surveys have found that around 20 percent of Americans say they have been beset by identity theft. But what exactly is identity theft? The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 defines it as the illegal use of someone's "means of identification" — including a credit card. So if you lose your card and someone else uses it to buy a candy bar, technically you have been the victim of identity theft. Of course misuse of lost, stolen or surreptitiously copied credit cards is a serious matter. But it shouldn't force anyone to hide in a cave. Federal law caps our personal liability at $50, and even that amount is often waived. That's why surveys have found that about two-thirds of people classified as identity theft victims end up paying nothing out of their own pockets.
The more pernicious versions of identity theft, in which fraudsters use someone else's name to open lines of credit or obtain government documents, are much rarer.

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