Who’s In Your Wallet?

Discussion
Mar 11, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Forget about “What’s in your wallet?” With all the recent announcements that hackers have broken into company files to steal the personal information of what could be millions of consumers, many have got to be asking themselves, “Who’s in my wallet?”


DSW Shoe Warehouse is the latest to publicly announce hackers broke into its systems and made off with the credit card and personal shopping information that Kurt Douglass, a special agent with the Secret Service said could affect “hundreds of thousands.”


There’s no doubt that identity theft is a growing problem. According to Federal Trade Commission statistics, complaints of identity theft were up 19 percent in 2004. Individual consumers reported losing $547 million last year in identity theft cases.


Steven Baker, Midwest director for the Federal Trade Commission told The Chicago Tribune, “No matter how you cut it, this is a huge problem. It’s an epidemic.”


Ronald Allen, a professor at Northwestern University’s School of Law doesn’t see the situation improving either.


“Not to be flippant, but the future of identity theft is quite rosy,” he said. “As more and more information gets transmitted electronically, there are more and more opportunities for nefarious behavior, and the human condition being what it is, there will be more and more people to take advantage of it.”


Moderator’s Comment: What is the state of consumer information security in retailing at present? How is identity theft impacting retail operations and
the industry’s bottom line?

George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "Who’s In Your Wallet?"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 11 months ago
It’s so easy to get personal information that I’m surprised the epidemic isn’t greater than it already is. I’ve refused to do business with places that want a social security number. A cell phone company insisted on that, so I went elsewhere and chose a different company. But this info is everywhere. A company my wife worked at some years ago had a bad apple in HR. This person took amazing amounts of personal data from people, and wreaked havoc. Some of the “controls” in place are about on par with the former question asked at airline counters: “Did you pack this bag yourself.” I mean, the one where if I call a credit card company about a mistaken charge on my bill, but the card was initially taken out by my wife, they won’t talk to me. Now I routinely identify myself as my wife (woman’s name, man’s voice? no problem) and they’ll talk to me and give the info I need. We need a drastic overhaul, and I don’t know why the feds… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 11 months ago

There is only one protection from identity theft – BAD CREDIT!

To insulate yourself, accumulate 12 credit cards, never pay a bill on time and reduce your credit score to under 400. No one will steal that because it’s of no use.

Good luck.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 11 months ago

A person can easily get a little paranoid about this subject. Even if you do all the right things, it is no guarantee that you won’t be a victim of this and that is troubling. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and, as in Warren’s example, you never know where that may be. There seem to be too many places where one’s security can be breached these days. I don’t have any great recommendations, unfortunately, other than to shred all private documents and don’t give out your Social Security number, but we already have seen where that isn’t always enough.

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 11 months ago
A corollary problem to the (lack of) security of data collected by such aggregators as ChoicePoint: the data they collect is often wrong. ChoicePoint, you may recall, was the firm hired to purge felons from the Florida voter rolls in 2000. If there was a felon named Robert Johnson, all 500 Robert Johnsons came off the rolls. Whoops! I think of this every year when I pull my credit report and the student loan I paid off in 1989 still shows up. At least they show it paid current. We gave up trying to have it removed. Since most states place the burden of proof in identity theft on the victim — you have to prove it wasn’t you who opened 10 instant-credit accounts in one day under your name — retailers haven’t cared much one way or the other. But, as momentum builds to take the burden off the victim, and big companies wind up holding the bag for millions in fraudulent purchases, expect that to change, and about time. P.S. A $70 cross-cut… Read more »
Franklin Benson
Guest
Franklin Benson
15 years 11 months ago

It can be more serious than even these scenarios. If a criminal gives your identity and then skips the court appearance, there will be a bench warrant out there with your name on it. Next time you get a speeding ticket, you could get arrested and hauled off to jail.

I think that maybe some sort of foolproof biometric might be our only hope. I mean, if someone cuts off my finger and uses it as my identity on a fingerprint scanner, I’ll at least be aware the crime happened.

Jonathan Levy
Guest
Jonathan Levy
15 years 11 months ago

The bigger issue here is the often capricious nature by which your credit score can be affected in such a huge way, without ever being notified.

If the credit companies have all of your personal information and are taking the drastic step of moving you from a 740 FICO to a 640 because of a single (alleged) late payment, it should be incumbent upon them to notify you. Credit and credit scores are the lubricant by which the machinery of the financial systems in this country run; one small misstep by you, your credit company, the person responsible for tracking your mortgage payments or the nefarious identification thief and you effectively become persona non grata.

If the three major credit reporters were required to notify you by mail every time anything detrimental was reported on your credit report, society as a whole would be a lot more vigilant and access to capital, the training wheels that allow our country to run, would run a lot smoother.

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