Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Middle school demonstration on identity protection

Today, Saturday Feb. 9, 2008, the Arlington VA Police Department and Sheriff’s Department had a community safety forum at the newly rebuilt Kenmore Middle School, with auditorium programs on Internet safety for parents and teens, and especially consumer identity protection.

The Arlington police department did a demonstration on how bank card skimmers work at ATM’s. One piece of advice was to limit the use of debit cards online and use credit cards instead.

The identity issue has led even to fraudulent mortgages and auto loans. I asked why lenders do not do more due diligence on identifying customers, and the answer was “good question.” The officer went on to say that “loss prevention” is usually the first to cut employees in an economic downturn. Lenders work on the basis of short-term profit and it is hard to incentivize them to protect consumers for the longer term. The subprime crisis was mentioned as an example. Again, lenders do not have a single system set up to enable them to identify consumers reliably in a cost-effective manner, at least without triggering privacy concerns known from airline security issues and 9/11.

I also asked if identity problems led to false prosecutions, especially after hacker activity (related to c.p. or zombies and DOS attacks) and they indicated that actual wrongful prosecutions are very rare.

On CNN this afternoon, there was an ad for freecreditreports.com (I'm not adding the link because McAfee gives the site a yellow, claiming that the site sells something that should be available for free -- feel free to check this out yourself), that suggested that, without it, any person could wind up serving fish and tartar sauce in T-shirts for the rest of his life (it used a fast food place for that effect). It was a rather offensive ad.

(Note: This posting was originally made on Feb. 9; it was deleted and re-added to give the posting a correctly formatted title.)

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