Monthly Archives: July 2007

Blumenthal Shows a Different Facebook

Another social networking site is starting to take some heat from law enforcement in its ability to keep sexual predators off its site. The New York Times reports that Facebook, which has positioned itself as the safe social-networking alternative because it takes greater lengths than other social networks to keep adults and under-age users apart, is now under scrutiny from Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal’s interest comes from a few recent cases involving convicted sex offenders joining the site and from investigators finding inappropriate images and content. He also has a personal interest because his children use Facebook.

The article says Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer at Facebook is:

“not familar with the Connecticut investigation but that the company has received ‘a number’ of such reports and usually takes down such profiles within 72 hours.”

Some of you might remember Kelly who appeared on a panel discussion at the RSA security conference last February titled Pandora’s Box – Youth and Internet Security in the Information Age. I highly recommend watching this panel discussion if you haven’t already.




Filed under Age Verification, Chris Kelly, Facebook, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, Richard Blumenthal, sexual predators, social networking

Why Preventing Identity Theft Involves Company Culture

Some folks over at InfoWorld are really championing the prevent identity theft cause these days.

Today Mario Apicella wrote a piece on his personal story with identity theft and the legislation the DOJ has drawn up to combat identity theft. And last Friday, Robert Grimes had commentary disputing some of the GAO’s report that concluded identity theft isn’t really a problem but that the process of notifying consumers whenever their personal financial information has been compromised is. (His sarcasm is really evident just in the headline: Identity Theft? What identity theft?)

Of course I can see how the GAO came to this conclusion because incidents of identity theft can go undetected for years. But I’m thankful to see that the DOJ is taking the strategic plan of the President’s task force to heart and being proactive in protecting both businesses and consumers.

I particularly liked Mario’s slant on the action that should be taken:

“Companies must do their part in combating identity theft – not just wait until mandated by law.”

Yep. We do. And it involves company culture. Protecting and preventing identity theft is not just a back office IT concern. It’s also a customer service concern because protecting a business should focus on protecting your consumers. This leads to a sales and marketing concern since happy customers often drive more sales. Of course, finance is already concerned because of the losses and costs associated with identity theft. And then finally HR is concerned since employees are the one’s delivering all the above.

Really I don’t see any part of a business that should not be concerned with the impact of identity theft and wanting to be proactive about preventing it.

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Filed under data breach, identity, identity theft, Identity verification, protecting your credit, stolen identity

Thank-you Chris Hansen

Atlanta’s Star94 held an interview with NBC Dateline’s Chris Hansen yesterday morning which was really interesting. Last night another episode in his series To Catch a Predator aired where the focus was on predators in New Jersey.

During the interview Hansen gave some statistics from the show. Since the series began 3 years ago, 286 predators have surfaced, 256 have been arrested and 117 have been convicted or pled guilty.

His efforts have resulted in a 117 predators that have been caught and punished. There was even one guy who showed up twice! The first time the predator appeared in Riverside County, CA and then 8 months later he was caught again in Longbeach.

Because of his experience from the show, Hansen authored a book titled To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home. While talking about the book he was asked about MySpace and the recent news that the social network found and deleted 29,000 predator profiles (more than 4 times the initial 7000 MySpace claimed in May). His response in summary was: good people meet good people on MySpace everyday. And MySpace does monitor and kick people off its site all the time for inappropriate behavior. But with millions and millions of profiles to monitor and watch it is impossible to really know who you are dealing with and who is up to what.

I think Hansen’s approach to the subject of online predators has really helped raise awareness to the dangers of the Internet for kids and shed a lot of light on predator behavior. And if you didn’t already know, Hansen recently tackled another pressing issue for all of us – identity theft. If you missed his series To Catch an ID Thief a few months ago, you can watch the segments here on YouTube. It’s a cool series because he ends up flying all over the world tracking down an international fraud ring.

And speaking of fraud rings… did you see the news about the 17 people indicted last week in a local fraud ring in Kansas City? They stole the personal information of 300 people and filed fraudulent tax returns for $13 million in refunds. If you live in Kansas City, check out the offer from ID Watchdog. They are going to help Kansas City citizens find out if they were a victim for free. Now are you starting to see how identity theft can show up in places outside of your credit report?

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Filed under Chris Hansen, fraud, ID Watchdog, identity theft, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, sexual predators, social networking, stolen identity, To Catch a Predator, To Catch an ID Thief

Risking Life and Identity To Serve Our Country

The personal details of over half a million US service personnel and their relatives may have been compromised by a Pentagon contractor according to this source. The risk comes from data that was sent unencrypted over the Internet which contained personal information including social security numbers, birth dates and health information.

The contract company at fault for this expects to spend at least between $7M – $9M dealing with the consequences of the lapse in their security protocol, but could end up spending more if incidents of identity theft start to occur.

In case you missed it, here is the Military personnel prime targets for ID theft article that appeared in USA Today last month telling us that 30 million of the more than 100 million personal records reported lost or stolen in the USA since 2006 were from active and retired service members.

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Filed under data breach, data encryption, identity, identity theft, military records

Identity Theft Summer Reading List

Those of you not reading Harry Potter this weekend might want to check out Terri Cullen’s book “The Wall Street Journal’s Complete Identity Theft Guidebook: How to Protect Yourself from the Most Pervasive Crime in America.”

Terri is the WSJ’s personal finance columnist. If you read the paper yesterday you might have seen her piece adapted from the book on how to use your credit report to protect against identity theft. In it she discusses what you need to examine on your report, how you should go about correcting errors and the downsides of freezing your credit. There is also a list of services that will monitor reports from all three credit bureaus for you (similar to our partner ID Watchdog but focused solely on credit)

In this WSJ podcast, Terri discusses identity theft – including the newer kinds of identity crime happening in the medical and employment fields – and comments how most people don’t really pay attention to this stuff until someone they know or they themselves become a victim.

She’s right. Even though it seems we can’t go a day without some sort of data breach or identity theft news popping up. I’m betting the concern or fear most people feel when reading these articles hasn’t been enough to overcome their inertia and thoughts of “it won’t happen to me.”

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Filed under credit reports, data breach, fraud, harry potter, identity theft, Identity verification, Internet Safety, protecting your credit, terri cullen, wall street journal

Studying the Odds for Online Interpersonal Victimization of Youth

Amy Tiemann has a blog post on CNET titled Online Safety Needs to Go Beyond “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” The focus of the post is on an Internet Prevention Messages research study to explore the odds for online interpersonal victimization (i.e. unwanted sexual solicitation or harassment) of youth ages 10-17 published in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study concludes:

Talking with people known only online (“strangers”) under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not. Engaging in a pattern of different kinds of online risky behaviors is more influential in explaining victimization than many specific behaviors alone. Pediatricians should help parents assess their child’s online behaviors globally in addition to focusing on specific types of behaviors.

What I find really encouraging is the active role pediatricians are taking to protect children online by publishing the results of the study and saying how pediatricians can help parents. This supports my “It Takes a Village” theory that we all need to be active participants in protecting children in our virtual world – the responsibility does not solely rest on the parents. Especially when you consider the final finding of this study which Amy comments on at the end of her post:

A final finding, that the risk for online victimization is elevated when kids experience offline abuse, victimization or conflict with their parents, underscores the complexities of the situation and the need for social protection through sound laws and public policy.

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Filed under Age Verification, child safety, Identity verification, Internet Safety, protecting kids online

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho; It’s off to jail he goes…

A sexual predator in Connecticut that used MySpace to meet his 12-15 year old female victims is going to jail for 20 years, according to this television news source. While this might not be the first incidence of a sexual predator linked to a social networking site being sentenced, it is the first I’ve heard about.

As all of you readers know – I believe using age and identity verification on social networking sites will help protect kids. But certainly it isn’t the silver bullet. It is only one piece of the solution. Other pieces include law enforcement bringing to trial accused predators and then punishing those convicted, and parents being aware and involved.

Does your child have a MySpace account? Do you know what’s on their profile? Do you know who they are chatting with?

In a link related to this news story, the television station gives characteristics of an online predator and offers tips to parents on how to protect your children. Because I think these are very important for you to know I don’t want to rely just on you clicking this link to see the information, I’m republishing it in this post:


Characteristics of an Online Predator

  • Most commonly male
  • 30 to 65 years old
  • Has a middle- to upper-middle class lifestyle
  • Usually a college graduate
  • Commonly married in the past or is currently married
  • Often has children of his own that are older than the children he is chatting with

How Sexual Predators Communicate

Police say the ultimate goal of an Internet predator is to meet their victim face-to-face and the predator will say and do anything in order to do so.

Steps Predators Take to Meet Victims

  • Appear familiar: They will mold themselves into something appealing and interesting to the child.
  • Develop trust: Listen to the child and sympathize with his/her problems.
  • Establish secrecy: Encourages the child to keep their relationship a secret.
  • Remove sexual barriers: Feeds off sexual curiosity and slowly introduces sexual content or pictures, commonly done using Web cameras.
  • Direct intimidation: Make threats if the child attempts to stop communication or refuses to meet in person.

How To Protect Your Child

  • Put the computer in an open space
  • Do not allow computers in the child’s bedroom
  • Explain that the use of the Internet is a privilege
  • Outline family rules concerning the use of the Internet
  • Ask your child they know about the Internet, which chat rooms they use, how many screen names they have and how many profiles they have on the Internet
  • Ask your child to see their profile and buddy lists
  • Stay calm and talk to your child without making accusations. Explain to him/her that if they get a picture, or if someone says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, to tell someone
  • Explain that they will not get in trouble for telling a parent


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Filed under Age Verification, Identity verification, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, social networking