Sunday, August 17, 2008

Novelist Jeffrey Deaver weighs in on "consumer identity protection"

Parade, the magazine-let insert into many Sunday newspapers, has an article today (Aug. 17) by novelist Jeffrey Deaver, “The Case of the Stolen Identity,” link here. He gives advice according to the acronym “SCAM” and also recommends buying and using a shredder to prevent dumpster diving. I still wonder why we have stooped to the point that we don’t expect our financial institutions to be more careful and expect private individuals to spend the time and expense of protecting themselves and their families.

Deaver gives a personal account of a credit card that got lost during a move, and that generated bogus charges. He got them cleared, but it took credit reporting company computers a year to clear his credit. He found himself paying cash deposits for utility hookups and he found himself locked out of mortgages and home-equity loans, because of the wrongdoing of others, not himself.

He says that 9 million people a year are victims of identity theft, if an annual cost to the national economy of $50 billion. He talks about some of the more “brazen” things that happen with the crime. In his latest thriller, Broken Windows (apparently in process because I don’t see it on Amazon yet), an identity thief actually frames his victims for his murders. People have been false prosecuted for crimes committed by others in their names, and the possibility increases with certain issues on the Internet, and apparently has happened sometimes already with illegal downloads. In Arizona, a teenager was accused in late 2006 of uploading c.p. that may have been placed on his family computer by hackers, although the facts in the case are murky. I covered this story on my Internet safety blog on Feb. 3, 2007, link here.

Deaver, with tongue in cheek, urges the public to forward Nigerian scam emails to him so he can dole out the proceeds.

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