by Joseph Weisenthal

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.

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  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 5 Feb 2007 @ 8:54am

    Think twice

    You should always think twice about anyone that is using the results of a survey or study to suppot their argument. Chances are said person had the study done for the express purpose of using it in their argument.

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

  • identicon
    Buzz, 5 Feb 2007 @ 10:20am


    My study shows that identity theft hasn't happened in the past three years!... Oh, my sample had only one person in it. My bad. Well, at least it's decreasing for SOME people.

    Yeah, you gotta be careful when using your own survey to further your argument. :P

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

  • identicon
    Michael Long, 5 Feb 2007 @ 11:29am


    At least now there's a reason to distrust the study, as opposed to "they did it so it must be biased" mantra so often expoused by many.

    Now, does "one person pretends to be another" cover credit card number theft as well? If so, then I'd have to think that without numbers the "synthetic identity fraud" group might not be in itself large enough to compensate statistically.

    If it doesn't cover credit card theft, then from my perspective the study is worthless, as that's the most common type of "pretending to be someone else".

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

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 5 Feb 2007 @ 8:18pm

    I'm not worried about the fraudsters out there, for the simple reason that since we all know about them, they are pretty amateur. It's the sneakey bastard who hacks the bank's computer system and syphons off tiny amounts of money into his account in some little country with no respect for forgien (or local) law that there is a problem. And before you all say that that is impossible, it's not since the bank computers are connected to the internet, and so are hackable.

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 6 Feb 2007 @ 11:59am

    Study flawed in method and theory

    This study never obtained my trust in the first place. Following security news for a couple weeks and the security lapses are running high just look at listings at or the blog:

    Even if the study was conducted fairly would it make a difference? The information is still being stolen and at the rates phishing and other security lapses have been going it will continue to cost the public a great deal. Instead of focusing so hard on stopping fraud the energy should go to stopping the problem in the first place.

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

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