Fraud News

Government’s role in protecting identity in an age of data breaches

Author: Andy Bucholz / Source: GCN


Data breaches have become so common that they hardly register as a blip on our radar these days. We hear about them on the news. Or worse, we learn about them if we are unlucky enough to receive a letter in the mail notifying us that we are among the victims.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been more than 7,500 data breaches since 2005, involving more than 898 million records. Since the U.S. population consists of around 325 million people, that means there is a strong likelihood that most everyone’s records have been stolen at least once. Here’s why: stolen personal identification information is big business.

Hackers sell identity data to organized criminals. I’ve seen basic personally identifiable information (i.e., name, date of birth, Social Security number and address) sell for as low as $2 on the dark web. The more information that can be packaged to help with authentication of the basic identity, the higher the price. A recent study found the going rate of basic PII, coupled with information such as banking data or credit card numbers, is $15.

Organized criminal groups, both foreign and domestic, buy these stolen identities to commit all types of fraud — medical identity fraud, credit card fraud and more — at scale. One type of identity fraud that has increased in recent years is government identity fraud.

Government identity fraud: Why now?

Government identity fraud occurs when a criminal uses someone else’s identity to apply for and receive government benefits or services. In 2016, employment- or tax-related fraud was the No. 1 type of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission by consumers. Even so, government benefits fraud is one of the most underreported types of identity theft because the individuals whose identities were used to steal benefits usually never find out. Unless a person files for unemployment benefits in his state, he will never know if someone else used his identity to receive those benefits. It’s never going to appear on…

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