As as kid, my mom would constantly remind me that I was a Hawaiian Prince – a direct descendant of King Kamehameha’s grandparents and the Kekaulike (23rd Moi of Maui) line. I was born in Hawaii but grew up on the East Coast so as a kid, I was embarrassed to be of Hawaiian Royalty since it was different from the typical ethnic groups of the New England states but that was/is Who I Am. Of course as I got older I like being 254th in line to the Hawaiian throne…if it was still a sovereign kingdom. Your identity is what makes you, You. It is made up of things like, Your Family, Your history, What you say, What you know, Where you are, What you share, Who you know, Your preferences, Your choices, Your reputation, Your profession, Your biggest fears, Your greatest love and all the nuances that make each of us an individual. This information is available on the web, in profiles, contacts, email, data, documents, music, images, blogs, favorites…. Networks… you name it. Some may confuse ‘image’ or ‘persona’ with identity. Many celebrities have images to keep, or present a persona that they want their audience to latch to but many times, it is not their true identity and who they really are at their core. There are also certain pieces of our identity we’d also like to keep secret. That’s the same information that the crooks want.
As we approach the holidays, this is an especially critical time to keep an eye on our information and those devices that contain our information, like our mobile devices. You may have seen the recent commercials about making payments over your smartphone – the one where everyone pulls out their phones after dinner to pay their share and the guy with cash looks like the fool. Huh? I got real, crisp, green money in my hand, right from the ATM and nobody wants it. The mobile payment infrastructure is still in the early stages but you can imagine the schemes already being hatched by those who would love to intercept those transactions.
And speaking of crooks, did you see that 111 arrested in massive ID theft bust in New York? Prosecutors are calling it the largest ID theft fraud case in US history. For two years, law enforcement dug in for ‘Operation Swiper,’ which targeted a very sophisticated ID theft ring who recruited and paid restaurant workers, retail cashiers and even bank tellers to steal credit card numbers and quickly convert that data into cash. They had everything – computers, skimmers, card readers, embossers, credit card blanks and shopping crews who went coast-to-coast buying high end merchandise while staying in 5-star hotels. They made off with over $13 Million in less than a year and a half.
On a separate but positive note, a new Federal law was passed to protect foster children from identity theft. This new law requires states to run credit checks on older foster children and work to resolve ID theft cases so when the child reaches adulthood, they have a clean slate. Foster children are prime targets for and face greater risks of ID theft since their information passes through so many hands and agencies. Most states also still use the foster child’s SSN to identify them, adding to the risk. Many foster children enter adulthood with massive debt due to someone else leaving them with bad credit. This law is intended to both protect against that and help those who have been victims.
And lastly, next week is the 4th annual National Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW). Multiple Better Business Bureaus are joining several government agencies and other national advocacy organizations to offer educational workshops, free document shredding and computer recycling. Javelin Strategy and Research noted that in 2010, 8.1 million adults were victims of identity theft resulting in the loss of $37 billion. Plus, according to AllClear ID, children are 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen.
So as the year end festivities start heating up, don’t forget to keep an eye on you along with protecting and embracing your identity.