October 13, 2014 -
This is a guest post by Janice Kephart, founder of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA).
Research will inform the public on identity theft and fraud threats and assessments.
Austin, TX – With a $5 million grant from the Texas state legislature, the University of Texas at Austin has launched a new Center for Identity to inform the public on identity theft and fraud threats and assessments. In something akin to a digital ribbon cutting ceremony in the heart of Longhorn territory, the university opened its digital doors at its alumni center on October 7.
Supporting the launch was a friendly team of professors and research assistants dedicated to unlocking the secrets of identity thieves and helping individuals and institutions protect themselves, while building the statistics to better align policy and law with actual threat.The event featured local Congressman and House Appropriations Homeland Security Committee Chairman John Carter, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, and ID Center Director Suzanne Barber. According to Director Barber, identity theft has become so consistent and rapid, many see identity theft simply as the cost of doing both personal and business in a web-based world. Few realize how great and extensive that cost really is. The result, Barber said, is that our culture suffers from “identity theft crisis fatigue,” enabling identity theft not only to continue, but proliferate.
In reviewing the Center’s materials and in speaking to those who helped set up the Center, it is clear that Director Barber has opportunity to make a significant difference in understanding and assessing identity theft. The IRS has lost about $5 billion in identity theft, the largest form of tax scam today. In 2012, identity theft losses were $24.7 billion – by far the largest and most permeable crime in the United States. 113 million reported being an identity theft victim, with losses at an average $1000 per person.
According to the Center, the cumulative financial impact of stolen social security numbers is $62 billion, credit or debit cards $43 billion, bank accounts $5.2 billion, maiden names $4.8 billion and email accounts $2.5 billion. While the most widely publicized breaches are those involving corporate entities with large portfolios of identity data such as Target and AT&T, until now there has been no analysis or predictive reporting on what the Center says are the largest sectors attacked by identity thieves: children, seniors, small business and military servicemen and women.
With a forward looking approach and support from the US Secret Service’s financial crimes division, MorphoTrust and more, the ID Center has assembled an online tool kit to prevent and recover from identity theft. Unique to the Center is a robust research program that includes identity threat assessment and prediction based on criminal behavior analysis; identity ecosystem mapping to highlight the most valuable and vulnerable identity attributes; identity economics to assess real costs and value of identity information; and identity law and public policy to align the best practical solutions with law and policy.
For more on some of the federal complications that currently exist in enforcing identity theft criminal law at the federal level, see my 2010 paper Fixing Flores: Assuring Adequate Penalties for Identity Theft and Fraud. The issues raised in this paper remain valid today.
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