Siciliano: ID theft is growing problem

Siciliano: ID theft is growing problem by Nathan Johnson "I would have to say that pretty much the biggest problem that all of you face is that you're all too nice. And you're all too kind. And you're all too trusting."

Robert Siciliano has made a career out of informing people how to protect themselves. He has 18 years of experience in self-defense, security work and martial arts. He is the president of three security-related firms. He's seen a lot of innocent people become victims.

"You are five times more

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likely to have your identity stolen then you are to be injured in a motor vehicle accident," warned Siciliano during presentations April 19 in Yankton and Vermillion. He put the scenario all Americans face in stark terms.

"It's like when you watch those wild world of animals shows � you see the lion chasing after his prey," the Boston native said. "He's always going to chase after his prey. He's going to continue to do it until the day he dies. And in our world, he is much the same. There are predators out there and they prey upon innocent people like us."

Siciliano pointed to the fact that 9.9 million people in the U.S. were affected by identity theft in 2002 and 27.3 million over the past five years. A stolen identity can result in an average of 175 hours of work and $1,100 in expenses to get your name cleared. It can even result in wrongful imprisonment.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 defines the crime as someone who knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity.

"Knowledge is power, and in the information age, information is power," said Siciliano. "In the wrong hands, that information can cause you a lot of problems down the road."

With Internet search engines making names, addresses and telephone numbers available to the world, identities are more fluid then ever. With a combination of any five identifiers � a name, Social Security number, date of birth, address or a mother's maiden name � a criminal can begin to "soil your good name," Siciliano said.

"Your Social Security number, as far as our government is concerned, is basically who you are," he said. "You are your nine digits. The reality of it is that is a false identifier. The way in which we identify human beings in this country is fundamentally flawed."

Siciliano demonstrated how, for a mere $49 on the Internet, a savvy criminal can buy information � even another person's Social Security number.

"I believe that the crime of identity theft is literally going to shake this country to its core," he said.

Siciliano cited biometrics as the only solution to the wave of identity theft washing over the country. Biometrics is the use of a person's biological traits to identify them. Already being employed in the nation's airports, this method of identification could include fingerprinting, iris scans, facial recognition or voice recognition.

"Eventually, I believe we will all be identified by biometrics," he said. "You will not be able to open up a bank account, credit card account or go to the ATM without being properly scanned with the use of biometrics security."

But until that time comes, U.S. citizens must use the protections available to them, such as shredding all throwaway documents with personal information, checking credit reports at least semi-annually, locking mailboxes and not giving out Social Security numbers except when absolutely necessary.

Siciliano also suggests subscribing to a credit monitoring service such as Equifax Credit or Kroll Inc. and Pre-Paid Legal Services.

"None of this is going to get any better unless all of you speak up about it," he urged. "Speak up to the state and federal government � let them know that you don't want your identity stolen. Start writing letters to your congressmen telling them that we need to implement biometrics security. It is time to start spending the money to put into place systems that will protect our identities.

"In this day and age when our safety and security are so vulnerable, we do need to get a better hold on our security and our borders. We're going to have to give up a little personal freedom to secure our nation and our world," he said.

Monday's seminar at the Vermillion High School Auditortium was sponsored by Vermilion's financial institutions, KVHT-FM and the Broadcaster/Plain Talk.

For further information about Robert Siciliano and tips to avoid identity theft, visit his Web site at www.IDTheftSecurity.com.

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