Sunday, July 20, 2008

Identity Theft: Not So in Europe!

Recently, a friend of mine got hit with a mild case of Identity Theft. I had a credit card number stolen on the internet and was being used to buy iTunes and iPods. So, I decided to research if this was a problem world wide because my card was stolen by someone outside the United States.

I decided to look at Europe and found that Identity Theft was minimal to non-existent; except for a slightly higher rate in the United Kingdom. But, even so, it was still not a widespread problem in Britain. Not even close to what was occurring in this country.

When I looked at the difference between Europe and the United States, it almost exclusively comes down to our use of a Social Security number as a form of national I.D. In Europe, their equivalent of the social security card is only used for retirement and health benefits. Generally, there is a separate national photo I.D. card. Unlike here, you can't use a health and retirement card number to open a bank account or order a credit card. Another significant factor in Europe is that it is illegal (unlike here) to sell or exchange any private information. In this country, there are "snoop" or sites on the Internet that allow people, for a fee as low at $29.95, to buy a limited amount of information about you and put together all that they need to steal your identity.

Last year, more than 3.5% of Americans or 10 million people suffered from Identity Theft, at a cost of $5 billion; and, our Congress is not doing a damn thing about it. They would prefer to spend their time on drug scandals in baseball.

We need a national I.D. card system, but, as usual, the Democrats buddies, the ALCU (American Civil Liberties Union), is dead set against it because of "privacy" rights. I guess you have to wonder what level of Identity Theft would have to get to before a national I.D. card system outweighs the privacy rights; the rights that the ACLU seems to be concerned over. Is it 25%? 50% Or, 100%. Personally, I think "privacy" is the core issue with Identity Theft because "my privacy" is at risk without a national I.D. system. Then, too, whose privacy is the ACLU worried about. The law abider's? Or, the lawbreakers?

(Note: As an additional benefit, a national I.D. system might help in the fight over illegal immigration.)

I have always felt that a simple I.D. card, a typical one that "can be replicated" on the street, is "not the way" to go. I firmly believe the card should be a photo I.D. like any traditional card or driver's license. It should include a hard-to-copy holographic image for control. But, as an additional protective measure, I believe that the photo on that I.D. should be uploaded to a Federal Depository that is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. This way, even if I walk into a bank to even cash a check, the person handling that transaction has the ability to go "online" and view my photo and I.D. information in a Federal database. And, they should match your card or, something is wrong! Change access to that database could be controlled by State, Federal and Local agencies; or, the Post Office. There should be no charge for this service. And, finally, any activity that involves product or services being sent to an address other than that shown on the national Federal I.D. database would trigger a notice being sent to the address shown in the database. This way, if someone does attempt to get a new credit card in your name, but a different address, you will be notified by mail or by email or both. The government could collect a small fee for that service.

Image by dumbeast's photostream on Flickr with Creative Commons Licensing (Click to View Other Works).

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