On July 8, I wrote about the fallacy of identity thieves guessing your Social Security number. Despite misleading claims in the news media, the fact remains that thieves have only a one-in-ten thousand chance of decoding your Social Security Number, the same as making random guesses.
Of course, thieves don't use random guesses as there are easier methods of stealing your identity information. A recent news article describes how Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco and in twenty minutes found identifying information of six Americans without having to guess any Social Security Numbers. In fact, he never left his car. The process apparently was simple. The information was freely given to him by government documents.
You can read the full story at http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22microchipped+PASS+cards%22&btnG=Search&aq=f&oq=&aqi=.
Government bureaucrats seem intent on locking up access to public domain information, such as birth, marriage, and death records, as well as Social Security Numbers of deceased individuals. But those same government bureaucrats also seem to ignore the far greater security problems – those created by government bureaucrats.
The news report describes how Chris Paget read the identification stored in microchips in all newer U.S. passports. He also was able to read microchipped PASS cards.
NOTE: The U.S. Passport card or PASS (People Access Security Service) card, a new credit card-sized travel document, is now being issued by the federal government. A poor cousin to the standard passport, it is more compact and less expensive, but valid only at land and sea points of border entry into the United States, not for air travel.
In addition to passports and PASS cards, four states now issue drivers' licenses that contain RFID chips that can be read remotely: Washington, Vermont, Michigan, and New York. However, Chris Paget did not encounter any of those drivers' licenses on his recent drive around San Francisco. Of course, a drive around any town or city in one of those four states would have produced different results.
RFID chips are designed to hold personal information about you, sometimes including your Social Security Number. They typically contain information about your home address, your date of birth, color of eyes, color of hair, and more. The information is stored in the tiny RFID chips in an unencrypted manner; any inexpensive RFID reader can access that information. RFID readers are readily available for purchase from any number of sources.
When originally designed, RFID chips were thought to have a wireless range of only two or three feet. However, soon after, several companies produced readers that could decode information from RFID chips twenty feet away or even further. Chris Paget was able to read the chips of strangers walking along the sidewalk or riding in nearby cars, even though he never got out of his automobile.
RFID chips were placed into passports at the recommendation of the Department of Homeland Security. The same department is recommending that all states use RFID chips in drivers' licenses. Yet the same Department of Homeland Security's own advisory committee on data integrity and privacy warned that radio-tagged IDs have the potential to allow "widespread surveillance of individuals" without their knowledge or consent.
In its 2006 draft report, the committee concluded that RFID "increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security," and recommended that "RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings."
The next time your local legislator starts making noises about locking up access to public domain records, please ask him or her to do a bit of reading first in order to locate the TRUE potential causes of identity theft.
What's in your wallet?