Optimistic Identity Theft Study Flawed
from the follow-the-money dept
Last week we pointed to a study claiming that identity theft is actually dropping, despite all of the hype in the media. But because the study was sponsored by a bank and a credit card company, both of which would have an interest in downplaying the identity theft threat, it seemed like there was ample reason to be skeptical of the study's conclusion. Now, holes are being poked (via 27B Stroke 6) in the results. Part of the problem, it seems, is that the firm conducting the survey only looked at simple, plain vanilla cases of identity theft, whereby one person pretends to be another. What they ignored is so-called "synthetic identity fraud", which involves creating an entirely new persona out of the personal information of multiple victims. This can be more damaging and harder to trace for those affected. In addition to the direct financial impact, it can also cause problems for people down the road, such as when they apply for loans, but are rejected due to something in their credit history. This kind of damage is also harder to quantify, as its costs are often felt more in time than in money. The study appears to have other flaws as well, each of which are favorable to the companies funding the research. While it can sometimes be a weak attack to cite the funders of study and claim a conflict of interest, in some cases it should indeed be a cause for concern.