Breaches: "Contrary to popular opinion, 2006 was not the Year of the Breach," insists Jay Foley, Executive Director of ITRC. "Rather, it was the year when breaches received a great deal of public awareness. Many companies have begun to implement improved information handling practices.
If not, there would have been more than the 300+ breaches that made headlines. Unfortunately, it is only negative news that gets attention - the breaches, and not the companies that are acting as responsible corporate citizens. Improvements still need be made in the governmental, military and educational arenas where a vast amount of personal information is available. It is my considered opinion that these three arenas need to be more aware of the information that they collect and how it can be exploited."
Safe information handling: 2006 saw several new taskforces formed, led by industry giants. These groups unified to study the problems companies face and to develop information handling strategies that will better address information leakage. These taskforces opened discussions on regulations, definitions and understanding of current crime trends.
2006 crime trends: We saw increased crime sophistication as identity thieves became more skilled at their profession. As each year passes, they improve their techniques. They become more adept at counterfeiting, avoiding crime detection, and have learned just how far to push the system to stay under the radar.
Identity theft is also being used to finance other major crimes such as drug trafficking. Medical identity theft is the new "topic du jour." However, consumers have been victimized by this crime for years. Clearly, there is still much confusion on the steps needed to clear one's fraudulent financial and medical records and work to do regarding this situation.
The past year also saw an increase in both quantity and quality of "Phishing" scams. Although there has been much attention toward educating the consumers about phishing, people continue to be victimized by this ploy.
Consumer education: ITRC believes the public is still confused by identity theft and what it is. Sheila Gordon, Director of Victim Services, remarks, "How can we, as a nation, educate consumers on identity theft when there is no consistent definition of what identity theft truly is? This has also led to varying survey results.
Many think that credit monitoring services will completely protect them. In truth, these services only play a partial role in notifying consumers of potential financial identity theft cases. Consumers also do not understand that financial identity theft is only one of several types of identity theft crime."
Illegal Immigration: Like all crimes, identity theft is a function of opportunity and motivation. As such, it occurs in many ways, and is committed by a wide range of perpetrators, including family members and employees. The ITRC is not aware of any persuasive data suggesting that illegal immigrants are more likely than others to commit this crime. However, trafficking in identities and current system flaws clearly present the opportunity to be used by illegal immigrants. This issue was more apparent as the year came to a close.