What is Criminal Identity Theft?


Robert K. Minniti, CFE, CPA, CVA, CFF

On July 7, King5.com reported that King County officials entered two charges of felony identity theft against Gary Wayne Bogle. According to Washington man charged with felony ID theft, by Danielle Leigh, Bogle used his brother's identity to obtain free health care and attempted to avoid a criminal record in his own name. His brother ended up with false convictions and a destroyed credit because of unpaid hospital bills fraudulently entered under his name.

Financial identity theft occurs when someone misappropriates your personal information to open new accounts, or uses your existing bank or credit accounts to make purchases. The above case shows a newer type of identity theft — criminal identity theft — that's spreading across the country and can be even more damaging than having a criminal destroy your credit rating.

Historically, criminal identity theft meant a criminal would obtain a driver's license or state identification card using the victim's information, including their photo. The criminal would provide this identification to police officers when they were pulled over for a traffic stop or while being arrested for a crime. They'd sign for the ticket and then miss the court hearing. Or they'd be arraigned and released pending trial and then miss the trial. Because no one appeared in court, the judge would issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the victim, whose stolen personal information was used by the actual criminal.

Often the victims of this type of identity theft find out about the crime when they're arrested or terminated from their job because of an outstanding warrant. They also might struggle to find employment because some companies conduct pre-employment background checks on job applicants. Take, for example, aCalifornia woman who was detained six times by law enforcement, arrested four times, spent 20 days in jail on no-bail warrants and even had her children removed from her care by child protective services — all because she was a victim of criminal identity theft.

Read the full article, and find out tips for protecting yourself from criminal identity theft, at Fraud-Magazine.com.

How We Innocently Give Away Our Data


Zach Capers, CFE
ACFE Research Specialist

Recently, I attended the ID360 conference in Austin, which was presented by the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Identity. The theme of the conference was “The Identity Economy” with speakers focusing on such topics as personal identity management, social media and online security. The discussions of these interrelated topics made me consider the ways I leverage my own identity in the emerging identity economy, and — more concerning — how my identity is used by others.

Identity is now a form of currency, and the consequences of this development are unfolding in interesting and often unpredictable ways. As a music lover living in Austin, I have noticed during the past few years how the identity economy is developing in the realm of live music and event ticketing. For example, during the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, I found myself shamelessly tweeting about the Mazda car company for a chance to win passes to an event I wanted to attend. Despite how obnoxious my shilling must have seemed to others on my Twitter feed, I felt it was worth it, particularly because I ended up winning the passes.

The identity economy was apparent in other aspects of SXSW as well. This year, an increasing number of events required that prospective attendees register through their Facebook accounts. This meant that attendees had to open their Facebook pages to applications that often collect and share personal information for marketing and other purposes. I found this too much to bear, so I avoided events that required compromising my Facebook account; however, countless other festival-goers likely did so without questioning the practice of providing access to their personal information in exchange for access to an event.

Another facet of the identity economy is the phenomenon of developing a user reputation to enhance standing within a particular user base. For example, the ticketing firm 1iota provides free tickets to television shows and concerts based largely on reputation. If you sign up for an event, win tickets and subsequently follow through with attending the event, your chances of winning tickets to the next show increase. Conversely, if you win tickets and fail to attend the show, your chances of receiving tickets in the future plummet. The idea is that those who build a strong reputation on the site tend to be more enthusiastic and dependable fans whom organizers prefer to have at their events. Reputation systems have been in use for many years with websites such as eBay and LinkedIn, and they will only increase in number and variety going forward.

At last month’s Coachella music festival in Indio, California, the identity economy was also in full swing. All ticket buyers were required to wear a wristband containing a registered radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, and all wristbands had to be activated with the individual’s personal information, with the option to connect the wristband to a Facebook or Spotify account. No doubt much of this information was collected for demographic research and subsequent marketing efforts. However, the RFID technology was also used to streamline entry, reduce fraud in the secondary market and track the movement of individuals inside the festival grounds to maximize logistical efficiency. Another result is that individuals can no longer attend America’s most popular and profitable music festival anonymously.

While many of these uses of identity might seem relatively innocuous, we must always question how much of our identity we are willing to trade for convenience. Our evolving — or devolving — concepts of privacy and identity are fundamentally changing not only commerce, but also the strategies through which companies and criminals exploit our personal information for profit. At the ID360 conference, the University of Texas announced a Master of Science in Identity Management and Security degree program; the first of its kind in the nation. Perhaps a new generation of identity experts will help guide us through the burgeoning convergence of our identities and the economy.

Are We Losing the War on Identity Theft?


Steve Lappenbusch, Ph.D.
Tax and Revenue Strategic Market Planner, LexisNexis Risk Solutions

An identity is stolen every three seconds – adding up to about 27,000 per day. In 2012, more than 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Furthermore, there have been a record number of security data breaches in recent years that have exposed more than 822 million records, compromising individuals’ personal information such as name, Social Security number (SSN) or bank account. The likelihood that at some point in our lives  each of us will fall victim to a data breach or identity theft is alarmingly high.

Identity theft has become an epidemic for government agencies as well. No sector of government is immune for the simple reason that the government cannot possibly know all there is to know about a person’s identity footprint. This is advantageous to identity thieves. who take advantage of the vast quantities of confidential personal data that is transmitted online. They are using this information against us – and, sadly, they are winning.

There are three critically important factors that LexisNexis has learned that can help government stop the current epidemic of identity fraud. All three things challenge current assumptions in every government system:

  1. Everyone’s identity has already been compromised. 
  2. Government programs cannot possibly know all there is to know about a person’s identity. Identities are always bigger than the government.
  3. To assess an identity for risk, you have to understand identity risk outside government data.

Simply put, we are losing the war on identity theft. Our identities are freely available for pennies a piece on the Internet. It is time to defend ourselves against a crime where the fraud weapons used against us are our own identities. This is a fundamental change in the assumption around identities in government systems. Self-reported data must all be suspected, as most, if not all, identities have been compromised over time. Once the identity is assumed to be stolen, a new approach in identity risk analysis must be used.

Proceeding from the new, data-driven assumption that all identities are already stolen enables the government to think outside the traditional box of identity protection and begin thinking in terms of risk – identity risk. Specifically, how do tax agencies control the risk of all those stolen and synthesized identities hitting their tax systems – tax systems never originally designed for a world where you could not depend on the identity presented?

So, what is the answer? An approach that embraces identity risk analysis, rather than data matching, has proven effective at the state level. Primarily this means analyzing input tax identities against identity information far outside the tax system, or any government system, and against analytics derived from decades of identity risk expertise. 

Avoiding costly identity risks requires reconsidering what an identity really is, carefully cataloging and mapping your identities, and leveraging a unique combination of expertise, patented identity integration technology and a massive, unmatched, nationwide repository of identities going back more than 40 years. This allows you to take into account the complex, dynamic and rapidly changing nature of tax filer identities. It can also solve both owned and matched identity risks simultaneously by allowing identity integration. 

To learn more about identity challenges and risks facing the government today and solutions to help resolve these issues, visit IdentityGov.com.