Thursday, May 22, 2008

Identity Theft Happens...

I try at all times to keep my inner cynic at bay. But, I have to tell you that every time I see the commercial for LifeLock come on TV, I cringe. You know the one--there's a big truck printed with a guy's social security number and the ad is touting his service that is designed to stop identity theft. He's so sure that his service works, that he doesn't mind sharing his social security number--with everyone.

To me, that's simply an invitation for a cocky thief.

Well, apparently, a smart criminal rose to the challenge and has succeeded. Check out this article just in: ID-protection ads come back to bite pitchman. From the article:
"Davis (the president of LifeLock) acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis' Social Security number."
The failure to protect even his own identity has sparked a number of lawsuits (big surprise there...).

"The lawsuits, for which Paris (attorney leading the action) is seeking class-action status, highlight the fundamental limits on how much security identity-theft companies can provide.

Companies like LifeLock can help guard against only certain types of financial fraud by helping consumers set up alerts with credit bureaus, which inform them when someone tries to open a new line of credit or boost their credit limit to finance a buying binge, for example."

I guess the moral of the story is--identity theft is something to be taken seriously, and there really are no easy answers. You simply don't need a company like LifeLock to help you monitor your own credit report--go directly to the bureaus for that. You can also ask them about fraud alerts and how to use them to fight identity theft, too.

As direct marketers, we too, need to always be on the look-out for areas where data might be stolen or misused. News like this reminds me about how we are often privy to sensitive customer info in the course of our day-to-day data mining and analysis projects. Accidents and theft CAN happen. We need to make sure that we have the appropriate measures in place to ensure that they DON'T happen.


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Ted Grigg said...

Thank you Suzanne for a fascinating piece of news. I was wondering when, not if this would happen.

As a Mac user, I pride myself with the idea that not a single virus or trojan horse lives in the wild for OS X as I write this. In fact, I have used a Mac for over 15 years without any kind of anti virus protection. And I have never experienced a virus attack.

I use my Macs in business daily emailing and purchasing products all over the world. I also connect to client networks on a regular basis. So the opportunity for infection was always there.

But about three years ago, I bought an anti virus software program to protect the PCs I exchange data with. I use FTP to upload and download lists from everywhere. I also email pdfs, Excel files, Word files, Access files and so forth exchanging them with clients and suppliers across the continent.

But even then, my Virus Barrier program has never identified any kind of virus except for PC infected files from time to time.

So we tend to get cocky until we get hit.

I agree that we must work even harder to protect client data for ourselves and our clients.

Its just a matter of time before OS X becomes a target. Though I am told that OS X’s Unix underpinnings make it very hard for hackers to create invisibly replicating virii.

Thanks for the heads up on a critical issue.


Suzanne Obermire said...

Ted, thanks for the nice comment. On another topic (and not to change the subject), I'm always so interested to hear the rabid loyalty coming from Mac-users. Your comment is a case in point. My next computer may just be an Apple!