Bank Marketers Aiding ID Theft

by Erin McCune on May 30, 2006

in Banking, Payments News, Research Round Up

Despite all the concern over online transaction security, most ID theft occurs via old-fashioned mail (although fraudsters will utilize the web to open accounts once they've stolen an identity). An article in today's New York Times explores identity theft and focuses on the large concentration of identity theft in Arizona.

The article observes that banks increasing focus on non-traditional credit customers (less credit worthy) as well as a long-standing reliance on mail solicitations offering preapproved credit and blank checks are aiding fraudsters:

But the real problem, many officials and consumer advocates say, lies
elsewhere. In recent years banks have campaigned energetically to extend more
credit to more people with fewer hassles, and retailers and consumers have
embraced instant, near-anonymous access to credit.

Last year a group of prosecutors, law enforcement officers and security
executives from banks and credit card associations met to discuss ways of
curbing identity theft. The group had plenty of ideas, including PIN numbers or
fingerprint verification for all credit card purchases and a ban on mailings
that include blank checks.

But all ran counter to the promotional campaigns of banks and, banks say, to
the desires of consumers.

"There's a disconnect between corporate leadership at financial institutions
and their security departments," said Brad H. Astrowsky, a former prosecutor who
was part of the group. "Marketing people are ruling the day in banking. They can
do things to fix the problem, but they have no incentive and motivation to do
it. Preventing something from happening is a cost. What's the benefit? It's hard
to quantify."

"Banks, credit card companies, retailers want to make it easy to buy," Mr.
Hartle said. "They write off identity theft as a cost of doing business. So
whenever legislation comes up that's going to cost them money, they throw
themselves against it."

Stolen Lives: Technology and Easy Credit Give Identity Thieves an Edge
The New York Times
May 30, 2006

The article cites research by Javelin Strategy and Research

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