New York Times Story On Identity Theft And Cybercrime

We write a lot about data loss at American companies and financial institutions. Some of you might wonder why we spend so much time on Verizon losing the occasional CD, or the occasional Citibank security breach. Maybe you’re wealthy, with a million dollars in credit and a shimmering Porsche. Maybe you’ve got 75 bucks in your checking account and need to eat beans and rice until your next paycheck. Either way, cyber-crime tends to seem faceless, not really a threat to you personally.

It’s surprising how many people we talk to who aren’t particularly concerned with identity theft or cybcer-crime, who view a lost Verizon CD as just that… a lost CD, not a big deal. So we invite you to check out this report by the New York Times on cyber-crime. It’s a fantastic summary of the reasons why we tend to report these stories.

The summary? No matter who you are, a hacker in the Ukraine probably already has all of your bank details, and he’s making a living selling them for a price. American authorities are impotent to stop these guys, so they instead focus on American hackers and identity thieves, whom are described in the NYT article as “the lowest hanging fruit… middling rubes or barely post-adolescent power-trippers.” Arresting these local hackers doesn’t dent the problem at all. Meanwhile, billions of dollars are being stolen from people just like you and me every year, usually by criminals in ex-Soviet-Bloc countries who are virtually ignored by local authorities.

We get upset when companies lose our data or compromise our financial security because a company’s security is literally the first and last line of defense in preventing your bank account and credit cards being drained.Everyone should be concerned and every consumerist should take these companies to task when they betray our trust.

Den Of Uncatchable Thieves [New York Times]

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  1. The Frog says:

    This is one of the areas in which the consumer is most impotent, particularly in cases of companies like Choicepoint and Axicom. These companies gather data from such varied and disparate sources that it’s impossible not to have a record with them unless you’re still a fetus. And then, to top it off there’s no way to opt-out of the process, as all of the ‘contracts’ we consumers enter into every day aren’t really negotiated contracts at all, but get out of jail free cards for companies that are looking to screw us over–or at least maintain a lucrative data sales revenue stream.

    And then, once you have a record with one of these companies, you have no way of getting out of their files. So what’s the solution?

    Stronger consumer protection laws? Don’t make me laugh. I might as well wish for an honest politician or a shit that smells of roses.

    The efficacy of calling with complaints? Boycotts? Giving the business to some lackey will get you a form letter at best, and at worst will make you an ass for harrassing some kid who makes 8 bucks an hour. And many of these companies have local monopolies, and it is therefore nigh-impossible to boycott them and live a normal life at the same time.

    Are we just forced to wait until a large enough data theft happens that acutally messes up the finances of someone who ‘matters’ before anyone actually cares about the integrity of data and the concept of privacy?