It's Your Good Name.Protect It

Article excerpt


With the increased ability to collect, compile, analyze, and disseminate personal information, identity fraud emerged as the major financial crime of the 1990s. The 90s also brought increased access, by individuals and commercial concerns, to computerized public records. This access, combined with electronic technologies, including the Internet, has increased the potential for identity theft.

Identity theft occurs when the identifying information of another person-his or her name, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, or other personal information-is used to commit fraud or engage in other unlawful activities. In other words, an identity thief can ruin a person's good name.

An identity thief can assume the identity of his or her victim, using personal identifying information. With this information an identity thief can:

Open bank accounts and investment accounts.

Obtain a Social Security card.

Acquire a driver's license.

Open charge accounts or tamper with existing accounts.

Obtain birth certificates.

Get professional licenses.

Secure a job.

The most serious peril a victim faces is if his or her imposter commits a crime and is convicted using his or her name, leaving the identity theft victim with a criminal record.

In 1998, the Government Accounting Office reported that there were an estimated 400,000 victims of this crime. This figure reflected a 16-fold increase from 1992 to 1997.

New federal laws have been enacted to make identity theft a crime and to protect the privacy of children using the Internet. …