Why more should be done to combat identity theft
There were two local reports this week that should worry those concerned about having their identities stolen and used for nefarious purposes.
The head of the personnel department for the State of Nevada reported this week that although they can’t find 470 CDs containing personal information on state employees, they don’t think there is much danger of them falling into the wrong hands. That’s not particularly reassuring for those whose Social Security numbers could be used by thieves to steal a very nice Christmas holiday.
There is also a warning coming out of the Nevada Attorney General’s office to be on notice for callers impersonating court officials and getting their victims to give over private information over the phone. In this scam, the perpetrators convince the victims that they missed showing up for jury duty, and then collect their Social Security numbers and other information. Some are so bold as to ask for credit card numbers in order for their victims to pay their “fines.”
So many entities – both governmental and private – have copies of our personal information that it may not be a matter of if this data is stolen, but when. There are so many mass losses of personal data reported on a regular basis that we have become almost immune to the warnings.
Taking personal responsibility for your information certainly helps, but we often can’t control what others do with that data, or how well they secure it.
There needs to be actions taken at a variety of levels to stop this scourge. These might involve technological solutions to allow people to better secure their data, or regulations that force all entities that collect this data to have a minimum standard of security. On the law enforcement side, more attention needs to be paid to catching these thieves, and punishing them more. After all, they aren’t just stealing a few dollars, but someone’s identity, which it might take months or years to restore. The punishment for identity theft needs to match the crime, and hopefully dissuade those who think it’s an easy score.
These solutions will require governments, businesses and consumers to come together to find ways to help stay one step ahead of the identity thieves. As citizens, we need to insist that our elected officials take this issue seriously, from the local level all the way to Washington, D.C.