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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Identity Theft

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
6:01 am

Take 5 and reward yourself today by reading a great little satirical piece from the Onion:

Arizona Man Steals Bush’s Identity
I hope you chuckled as much as I did. [Unfortunately, the Onion put this article into their archives, accessible only by paid subscribers. Sorry about that.]

It has been almost a year since President Bush Signed the

Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act
. In the official news release, he stated that “nearly 10 million Americans had their identities stolen by criminals who rob them and the nation’s businesses of nearly $50 billion through fraudulent transactions.”

This same statistic was mentioned in

Deputy Assistant Secretary D. Scott Parsons Remarks
before the Identity Management in Financial Services Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 16th.

Yesterday, I made a quick calculation based on that 10 million number and personal experience:

Two years ago, my wife’s purse was stolen out of the kitchen at our church, where she was attending a woman’s meeting. It turned out to be a professional job. Within an hour, over $700 of goods had been charged on her credit card at a local store. Over the next several days, the perpetrators successful forged her signature and mine on several checks to purchase gift cards and merchandise at large local stores. The man and woman team was finally caught and prosecuted, but the process to cancel credit cards, change bank accounts, provide fraud affidavits, place fraud alerts on all our accounts and speak with the police department representatives was exhausting. This photo shows the stack of paper generated during the process. You can only imagine the time it took to generate and chase all that paper.

So, here’s the calculation … If all 10 million Americans whose identities had been stolen generated this much paperwork on the average, it would fill a file drawer 158 miles long, stretching farther than from Phoenix to Flagstaff (for those of you familiar with the Arizona landscape). And I didn’t even include the paperwork kept by the merchants, banks, credit card companies, credit bureaus and police departments. Talk about a drag on our economy!

Of course, not all cases are this complex — like the time I got a call from Visa asking if I authorized an online transaction to ship $1800 worth of pharmaceuticals to Nigeria. But many are worse. The issues are complex and challenging. We in the Identity Management industry will play a large role in conquering this problem.

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