by Mike Masnick

The Lingering Effects Of Identity Theft

from the no-fun-for-anyone dept

Last year, we had a story about how many of the reports these data collections houses have on people have incorrect information -- often damaging reputations. However, Choicepoint and others also make it nearly impossible to make any kind of correction to that data -- which seems odd, as their entire business is based on that data. Having it be accurate would seem like a top priority. To highlight this, here's the story of one man who has spent nearly fifteen years fighting with many of these companies to clear his record. Someone had stolen his identity and used his name when arrested. While the police later figured out the true identity, they accidentally swapped the real name and the alias on the police report. Therefore, the identity theft victim is listed as a criminal, and that data gets spread far and wide. It's caused all sorts of problems in his life. Obviously, this is a single anecdotal case -- and an extreme one. However, it does highlight one of the very serious problems with these data companies, and the fact that their incorrect data gets spread to so many other companies so quickly, with absolutely no recourse. Of course, the whole situation is fairly circular. Since Choicepoint, for example, leaked their data to hackers, maybe this guy is now "protected" since no identity theft is going to steal his new, falsely criminal identity (though, we have seen at least one case where the identity someone stole was worse than his own real identity). Still, this story highlights just how weak some of the responses have been to these data leaks. Last month we showed Marriott's response to losing all sorts of critical info (including social security number, bank account and credit card info) was simply to pay for one year of credit monitoring. It seems that's becoming the standard. Another luxury resort has just admitted that they, too, have lost a ton of critical data on customers -- and are offering the same one year monitoring package. Is that really enough when the real victims seem to have trouble that lasts for many years?

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  • identicon
    Mike, 11 Jan 2006 @ 12:56pm

    The other side...

    Keep in mind that there are always two sides to the data quality issue. Sure, they could make it easy to allow consumers to edit their information, but you would have to assume that they are always updating it with the correct information.
    What is to stop a criminal from selectively editing their past this way?
    Perhaps a compromise could be reached where (much like disputed items on a credit report) the consumer would be allowed to add a 100 word (or is it 250) statement regarding select items until such time as the issue is resolved.
    In the end, I don't have the best answer, but we need to make sure that the good (criminal exposure through background checks) is not thrown out with the bad (erroneous data).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 11 Jan 2006 @ 1:26pm

      Re: The other side...

      Right. No one is denying (and I'm sorry if I implied it) that you should just open it up and let people change their info. However, when people can point to CLEAR mistakes, the fact that it's taking them over 15 years to correct... um, something's wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob, 12 Jan 2006 @ 12:55am

    A Case of Libel

    The man should sue for libel.

    The false data damaged his reputation to the public. Every company that participated in the publishing or distribution of the false data, at every point in the chain, can be held responsible, or at least considered an accessory to a crime. Ignorance of the law in regards to libel is no excuse.

    Seems to me he has a good case. He needs a new attorney that specializes in libel cases, and he needs to make his case public. 500 lawsuits filed at once is not unheard of, and only one of them needs to stick to establish precedent.

    I feel for this man. A flawed system has caused him misery; he should at least pull a profit off that misery to bring some good from a bad situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Terry, 12 Jan 2006 @ 11:11am

      Re: A Case of Libel

      I agree, but it seems common sense has left the building, 15 yrs., you got to be kidding,but the reality is that you are not, come on, how long do we put up with this kind of thing happening to others. imagine if u had your identity stolen & had to fight for 15 yrs.,It should not be happening, waiting that long that is.It just ticks me off that the solution is out there, but there is not enough pressure on the powers that be, to correct & fix the problem.Or am i way off base?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shalkar, 2 Jan 2007 @ 5:58pm


    I think there should be a substantial penalty for each and every time the information a company has on somebody is "leaked". I say a minimum of one million dollars for each person that would be paid to the person. They'll step up security in no time! This is only if the entity like the Marriott is responsible.

    If the person theirselves accidentally gave the data to somebody non-trustworthy, then there needs to be a system in place for that person to deal with any and all discrepancies within a year of the person finding out about them and reporting such discrepancies to the proper entities hosting those discrepancies.

    Only by having a strict committy that overseas these entities, having a main body and then a branch for each industry, such as hotels and resorts each having their own branch, so that who deals with what is clear and who reports to who is also clear. In this way only can it be possible to begin to ensure that such discrepencies can be dealt with quickly and cleanly. It would allow for the person to clean their report quickly and get repayment for their suffering, if any. It would also allow for quickly identifing people whom are just trying to not pay for things they got.

    That's my opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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