Identity theft only going to get worse

Cumberland Times-News
4/20/2007 – Pa. risk management specialist, a Short Gap native, gives facts to Cumberland Rotarians

Maria Smith
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND – It’s the fastest growing crime in America and this year, it will surpass the drug trade.

Identity theft, which many people weren’t familiar with five years ago, is common to just about everyone today.

Roger Whitacre, a certified identity risk management specialist from Akron, Pa., in Lancaster County, addressed members of the Rotary Club on Tuesday.

On a national call Monday with John Gardner, a member of Alexander Haig’s World Business Review Advisory Board, Whitacre learned that in 2004, the Internal Revenue Service received 7.9 million tax returns where the name and Social Security number didn’t match.

That number has increased 30 percent annually with the assumption that this year it will reach between 10 million and 11 million.

The five most common types of identity theft are driver’s license, Social Security, medical, charter/criminal and financial.

Whitacre, a Short Gap, W.Va., native, said driver’s license identity theft is rampant with the financial type accounting for between 21 and 28 percent of the cases. Medical identity theft, however, is the hardest one to reverse.

“Once you’re medical identity is stolen, you’ll wish they stole your money,” he said.

It’s “virtually impossible,” he said, to have a medical condition that you don’t have removed from your record.

From Feb. 15, 2005, to Jan. 14, 2007, 100,675,117 records were lost due to computer data breeches. Updated daily at www.privacyrights. org, the amount through April 12 jumped to 153,553,626.

“I’m here telling you it’s going to get worse,” he said.

Whitacre and his wife have encountered a problem dating back to 2004, when they bought property in Florida but sold it 10 months later. This month, they received a notice that three computers were stolen from the company and that some of the Whitacres’ information could be contained in them.

One of the best pieces of equity for a thief, Whitacre added, is one’s own hard drive.

Focusing primarily on companies and the effect it can have, he said employees can take 600 hours, mainly during business hours, to restore their identity. Companies spend 1,600 hours per incident at a cost of $40,000 to $92,000 per victim.

Everyone, though, should be concerned because of the civil and criminal liability they could face.

Federal and state legislation, including the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the Gramm Leach, Bliley Safeguard Rule are in place that include fines against companies who do not make their employees aware of identity theft safeguards.

The only antidote, though, is the Affirmative Defense Response System, he said.

In response to a question from Rotarian David Turnbull, Whitacre said if companies offer the protection, employees must pay for it but have the right to opt out of it.

Tom Wilt asked what individuals can do.

Whitacre said it’s recommended that people check their credit report once a year, but he believes that’s “364 times not enough.”

He also challenged those who have identity theft insurance to read through the coverage.

Whitacre said for those businesses that “experience a security breech, 20 percent of your effected client base will never do business with you again, 40 percent will consider ending their relationship and 5 percent will be hiring a lawyer.”

To receive a copy of the Federal Trade Commission’s four-page document on identity theft, call toll free, 1-877-IDTHEFT or visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

Maria Smith can be reached at msmith@times-news.com.

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