Video Digest: June 6, 2008

Everything you need to know about identity theft, including a Facebook tutorial and the story of Philadelphia's Bonny and Clyde.

Identity theft has become a crime epidemic—so how is it that 10 years ago, the phrase had yet to be coined? The internet and the rise of online banking are why: an easily exploitable, easily anonymizable window into the lives, and particularly the banking habits, of others.

Especially timely is the story of Jocelyn Kirsch and Edward Anderton, “the Bonnie and Clyde of identity theft,” the most scandalous news from Philadelphia since… well, it is extremely scandalous. It’s the story of a terribly attractive young couple fulfilling their dreams of luxury clothing and exotic vacations and life in the society pages. The problem was that they were funding it with credit cards taken out in their neighbors’ names, bank cards stolen from friends and strangers, fake checks from nonexistent accounts, and lies, countless lies. Jocelyn and Edward were finally caught in December of 2007 after a solid year of living the life of the rich and fraudulent.

Phishing is such a common concern that PayPal is threatening to ban Apple’s Safari, one of the top three most popular web browsers, due to its lack of phishing notification. But this is shortsighted—phishing is fundamentally a social engineering exploit. Wait, wait, social engineering? Well, yes. Facebook is full of security holes, and chances are you aren’t taking half the measures you can to protect yourself there.

Technological browser enhancements may make things a bit better, but the only real solution is education. Sadly, the financial institutions whose data is most often phished are as ignorant as their customers. As numerous reluctant press releases in the last few years have shown, financial institutions are unwilling even to acknowledge the problem, let alone address it.

Granted, Nigerians did mastermind that operation, but even the local news knows that you don’t need to have intelligence, cunning, or even a computer to perpetuate credit card fraud: all you’ve got to do is have someone else’s credit card.

Remember, “Identity” doesn’t have to mean bank account and/or social security numbers. What happens when someone is pretending to be you?

But seriously, you don’t have to be smart at all to pull off a little credit card fraud.

The ease with which goons worldwide succeed in invading our lives through our computers is enough to drive a person crazy. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as The Strongman ably demonstrates.

In sum, identity theft: totally scary.

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