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Risk

10/21/2008
07:47 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Protecting Your Identity: It's About Much More Than Tech

When thinking about identity theft, we often get caught up in the big retail hacks, the lost and unencrypted backup tapes, and how we interact with Web sites. But that's often the wrong focus. Here's why.

When thinking about identity theft, we often get caught up in the big retail hacks, the lost and unencrypted backup tapes, and how we interact with Web sites. But that's often the wrong focus. Here's why.I just read a story in the Mille Lacs County Times about a case of identity theft. The couple in this story pleaded guilty to numerous identity theft charges in federal court. Nothing especially out of the norm there, but the lesson to be learned is in how they were accused of doing it.

The couple pleaded to stealing mail, documents, blank checks, account information, and a slew of other types of documents. They allegedly created counterfeit checks and defrauded merchants from about $50,000 is stuff and services.

The story is available here. Here's how it looks like they were caught:

In September 2006, the Benton County Sheriff's Office searched a vehicle that had been occupied by the couple just moments earlier. Authorities seized documents pertaining to other individuals, including passports, birth certificates, bank statements, credit cards, completed checks, blank checks, motor vehicle certificates, and driver's licenses.

In March 2007, authorities executed a search warrant at the couple's home in Ramsey where they seized numerous checks without information, computer discs containing check writing software, four laptop computers, printers, lamination devices, and stolen mail.

The gist of the story: Low-tech means were used to capture information to be used for identity theft and merchant fraud, while some high-tech equipment was used to create false documents.

The moral: Don't leave documents with sensitive or personal information lying around, and shred any sensitive documents before tossing them into the trash.

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