Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Identity Thieves Can Find Out How Tall You Are

An article posted yesterday at Computerworld offers more evidence that, when it comes to handing over sensitive information to identity thieves, genealogists can’t hold a candle to their local government officials.

The pieces of personally identifiable information found on county Web sites and made available to Computerworld by [B.J.] Ostergren and other privacy advocates included the Social Security number of Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas) on a tax lien document; the Social Security numbers of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife on a quitclaim deed from 1999; the driver's license numbers, vehicle registration information, height, race and addresses of people arrested for traffic violations; the names and birth dates of minors from divorce decrees; and complete copies of death certificates.
But all is not lost. Darity Wesley of Privacy Solutions Inc. notes that identity thieves are far lazier than is generally thought.
There is ... little evidence to show that the public availability of personal information on government sites has contributed to an increase in identity theft, Wesley said. For most identity thieves, the chore of sifting through millions of public records for useful data simply isn't worth the effort, she added. [Link]
Speaking for myself, "sifting through millions of public records for useful data" sounds like a great way to spend a summer vacation.

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