Millions of people fall victim to identity theft on an annual basis. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives up to 20,000 calls per week that complain about identity theft issues. It’s clear that identity theft is rampant—so rampant, in fact, that even the White House is stepping in to help stop the spread, which costs the average identity theft victim about $631.
Internet Identity Theft
The increasing use of the Internet continues to perpetuate the problem of identity theft. Security experts say that the average Internet user has dozens of login names and passwords. Some use the same name and password for every website, which makes it easy for a thief to get hold of one and then break into the rest of the victim’s accounts. Worse yet are consumers that save their usernames and passwords in their computers. Any savvy hacker can obtain this information, and then use the accounts unlimitedly until caught.
National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
In response to the growing problem, the White House developed theNational Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC for short. The program primarily focuses on consolidating Internet usernames and passwords to help thwart identity thieves from getting this private information. The plan should work similarly to how Facebook Connect works now; this service allows you to log in to other websites using the same logon information you use to access Facebook. The consolidation would help you to identify yourself against the NSTIC account. NSTIC is a voluntary program, in which consumers can choose to participate.
The second portion of the White House plan involves a mobile verification unit. This portion of the program would allow people to confirm their identities with a handheld device, such as a cell phone. This part of the program would work similarly to how the cards work at grocery stores to help you take advantage of specials and discounts; without the device to swipe or scan, online accounts will be inaccessible just as you are unable to receive sale prices without the grocers’ cards.
So far, civil liberties groups are tentative supporters of the new program. According to an ACLU representative, Chris Calabrese,”The administration has done all the right things and said all the right things. They’ve been concerned about privacy. They’ve been concerned about collecting the right amount of information and not creating a centralized repository of everyone’s Web-surfing habits. That’s a very good thing.” Calabrese goes on to say that they will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds before fully supporting the initiative. Meanwhile, consumers can continue to safeguard their own information by varying their passwords, changing them often and never saving them inside their computers.