October 25, 2004 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Identity theft is epidemic.
posted by semmi (17 comments total)
Simple Solution:

Make your identity not worth stealing.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:11 AM on October 25, 2004

Then how do we know you're actually semmi?
posted by jonmc at 9:14 AM on October 25, 2004

At least we can blame the corporations instead of ourselves now. DOWN WITH THE MAN!
posted by angry modem at 9:26 AM on October 25, 2004

[insert rant about how in this golden age of civilization we are defining 'identity' by credit scores and the like, insert doomsday reference, don tin foil hat]
posted by xmutex at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2004

jonmc - damn! That was my tossoff one-liner! Mine!
posted by troutfishing at 10:31 AM on October 25, 2004

Interesting article. I must admit that I find the topic of identity theft rather fascinating. Earlier today I read this article about a particular incident of identity theft that was one of the creepiest things I've heard of in ages. {via obscure store}

insert rant about how in this golden age of civilization we are defining 'identity' by credit scores and the like

I've had three run-ins with identity theft over the past decade, each falling under a different definition of the term, and only one of them relating to credit cards:

a. when I first moved into my apartment, I kept getting calls from credit card companies looking for someone who didn't live in my apartment. Eventually, the police came by and I had to prove that I wasn't the person that the credit card companies were looking for. Apparently some people were using my address and phone number to commit fraud. No, they hadn't stolen my "identity", but it was the first hint I'd gotten at how delicate the concept of identity is when it comes to credit.

b. One night an agent of CSIS (Canadian equiv of FBI) showed up at my door. The first thing she told me was that someone I knew wasn't who they claimed to be. She then grilled me with questions for about an hour and refused to tell me what it was about--though she had to reveal who it was about to get any information. A few days later, the story broke in the news and I was rather shocked to find out that I'd been romantically involved with... a Russian spy who had stolen the identity of someone who'd died as a child.

c. A couple of years back, when I was still doing my "blog", Victory Shag, I started getting letters from readers who told me that they were friends with such and such, who I was apparently dating. At first I thought there was some girl out there who was just full of shit and was name dropping or whatever, but more and more letters came over the next few months, referring to different women met at parties and whatnot who claimed to be my girlfriend/lover/whatever. I knew none of these women. Eventually it came out that there was a guy telling women that he was me and that my name was actually his writing psuedonym. I sent out an issue about this and stated the name of the person I actually WAS dating and made it clear that anyone who said otherwise was full of shit and the nonsense with this other guy stopped. This incident really creeped me out and it, combined with a few other things happening at the same time, led me to stop the Shag project altogether.

I've always been curious if I've just been unfortunate or a magnet for this kind of shit or if it's happening to a lot of people and they just haven't been lucky enough to find out. The whole thing is very, very scary.
posted by dobbs at 10:32 AM on October 25, 2004

But I think you're really casting doubt on semmi's semminess to distract us all from the possibility that you're not really jonmc!......
posted by troutfishing at 10:33 AM on October 25, 2004

"In a lot of ways it could have been the perfect crime," Mr. Barrows, who now works as a private investigator, recalled in a recent interview. "The execution was seamless, and if they had been smart enough not to use a phone line that traced back to that house we probably never would have found them."

Oh good. I'm glad you let ALL THE OTHER IDENTITY THEFT RINGS know that.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:38 AM on October 25, 2004

It's amazing what people will give out online. Okay, on lonely weeknights my friend and I would play games with these college freshman/sophomore girls. Basically we'd get one screenname and they'd have all kinds of information in the profile (links to other friends, sororities, inside jokes). We'd use this to totally delude them into usually thinking we knew them. This is how it would usually go, not knowing their names or anything:

Me: Sup! Kappa Phi!
Girl: Hey!111!!!111
Me: :) What's up did you have fun last night? (vague question)
Girl: LoL I stayed in!!!
Me: That's what I heard! Why are you being no fun!

Eventually we'd lead them into telling us who they thought we were, etc. We'd never get personal information or anything but it was fun to see how trusting people are -- and to violate their trust. Actually we'd usually leave it with "I gtg" and never talk to them again after we got bored and realized everyone has really boring lives. Some of the best times was creating an absurd persona "Official John Browning with the Deparment of Young Adult Substance Abuse" or something similar to get them to admit to smoking a joint AND who gave it to them AND who that person got it from. People are such narcs. Yes I am evil.
posted by geoff. at 11:19 AM on October 25, 2004

"I'd been romantically involved with... a Russian spy who had stolen the identity of someone who'd died as a child"

dobbs, i want to see the nyt article about that!!
posted by armacy at 11:49 AM on October 25, 2004

From the NYT article:

For example, the study will show that corporate insiders set in motion about half of the identity theft cases examined. The F.T.C. has reached similar conclusions.

Well... duh. I came home from a party about a week ago to discover two unauthorized charges on my debit card. Both were online orders. Most online orders are validated by address, and one of the merchants involved requires the CVV number from the back of the card. This means that the perpetrator was almost certainly someone who works for an online merchant with whom I have done business -- that's the only way they'd be able to get all the necessariy information. Which narrows it down to only, I dunno, a hundred companies or so.

(Bank of America got me fixed up right quick, though, and has promised to send me the sales drafts for the fraudulent transactions... which may be interesting.)
posted by kindall at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2004

Make your identity not worth stealing.
That's been my strategy for years...
posted by wendell at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2004

dobbs, i want to see the nyt article about that!!

If the NYT did an article about it, I never heard. I do remember CNN mentioned it in passing. (I'm in Canada, remember.) Our three (at the time) dailies did front page articles. There's a bit in the second paragraph of this CSIS link about the spies ("Laurie" was the woman I dated).
posted by dobbs at 12:26 PM on October 25, 2004

a Russian spy who had stolen the identity of someone who'd died as a child

Holy cool.

W3 N33d P1CTUR3Z!!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:55 PM on October 25, 2004

Here is a quiz to test your ID savvy.
posted by twsf at 6:07 PM on October 25, 2004

we got bored and realized everyone has really boring lives

Except for dobbs.
posted by dhartung at 10:01 PM on October 25, 2004

I sound like a total brown noser when I say but, you didn't read Victory Shag did you? You have no idea how weird that guys life is.
posted by Parannoyed at 1:12 AM on October 26, 2004

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