NORWALK, Conn. -- During his seminars, Frank Abagnale will often ask someone to write down a phone number including area code. The leading fraud prevention expert and former master forger will then go online and reverse the number, producing the person's name and address. Abagnale then surfs over to the land title company in that county and brings up the mortgage title records to find out where that person's mortgage is held. In a matter of 30 minutes he's found out the person's social security number, date of birth and even the wife's maiden name. With all of the public records out there, Abagnale believes we're all a little na?ve when it comes to identity theft.
As identity theft continues to rise, affinity marketer Affinion Group worked with Abagnale to create ID Secure, a new tool that uses public records, social security numbers and credit card monitoring technology to fight back. The technology includes a four-pronged approach: a Personal Information Profile, Data Sweep, ID theft resolution and insurance and ID scoring, education and awareness. The price of the service is $11.99 per month.
The Personal Information Profile includes an overview of your public records, explained Nancy DiSpirito, senior vice president of product development, Affinion Group.
"It obtains, consolidates and formats data from over 5,000 data sources including real estate records, criminal records, legal records, bankruptcies, etc. It displays all of that information on you in one easy to read format. Never before has such a comprehensive report of your public data been available to the consumer. Public data is something that is available to everyone, but going out and trying to aggregate it and make sense of it can be tedious."
The process can take anywhere from a couple of minutes up to 30 minutes depending on the size of your personal file. It's not only searching your specific information based on your personal data, the tool is also searching those who might share your name, DiSpirito added. With ID Secure's Data Sweep, users can monitor their name, address, e-mail address, and phone numbers that are listed on Internet directories. Matches are displayed on a digital dashboard providing notification of where personal information can be found and assist in the deletion of that information. "Your information can be found on hundreds of Internet directories," DiSpirito said, "and you should know where that information is and how to control it. The less information that's floating out there, the better it is for you." The tool contains a resolution component that is proprietary and designed with the assistance of Abagnale. Affinion also developed and included a national fraud score. Utilizing weighted questions in the form of a behavioral quiz, census data and the commonality of a person's name a score is tabulated. Through Affinion's partnership with technology solutions company Edentify, Inc., information on hundreds of thousands of databases is searched to see how likely it is that your information could have been manipulated. Abagnale, who was the subject of the Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can, has been teaching at the FBI Academy for 31 years and began focusing on identity theft back in 1988 "before it had a name." As a spokesman for Affinion, he said people should better understand just how identity theft works on various levels from the thief to the companies that hold your personal information on their databases.
"If I hack into a credit card processing center and steal a million names and expiration dates, the credit card company doesn't cancel a million cards," Abagnale explained. "It currently costs $10 to reinstate a credit card in the United States, so they're not going to spend $10 million. What they do is if they have a breach and someone has been victimized--you won't hear about it--they'll block that series of numbers where there's been a breach."
In most cases the law requires that the company provide notification that they've had a breach, said Abagnale. After that day "they don't have to tell you anything." You never know if they recovered the information or if something happened to it and if someone was victimized, he added. Just because your information is not being exploited by theft at the moment does not mean that it has not been pilfered. "Let's say one of the names on a stolen disk is of an NYU student that has $131 in his checking account," Abagnale posed. "Well, five years from now he may be a broker in New York and married with a mortgage. He could have a net worth 50 times greater than it is today. In my personal opinion, you'd have to be a complete idiot to spend the money and resources to steal these databases and immediately put the information out on the street. I'd hold that information for at least three years. That information is like gold--the longer you hold on to it the more valuable it becomes. So identity theft is not something that happens just last week or last month. It could have happened years ago."
Abagnale said that the ID Secure system works because it allows for the monitoring of one's credit 24/7 and provides real time notification if someone was attempting to use your credit card, social security number or other personal information.
"If I can see it and put a stop to it, that's an effective tool," Abagnale said. "I use this system to protect myself and my family and I haven't found a better solution yet." --firstname.lastname@example.org