Home > Books, Identity & Access Management, Peak Performance > Book Review: Stealing Your Life

Book Review: Stealing Your Life

I used to be disgusted

I hear so much about Identity theft that I was almost bored
by the subject. Until recently, that
is. I was bored because I was
uniformed. I’m not anymore. I’m like an Anti- Identity Theft Crusader
thanks to an energetic and eye-popping new book. Stealing Your Life (2007, Broadway
Books/Random House, 242 pp) Abagnaleby Frank Abagnale tells stories, demystifies laws,
and offers remedies around the fastest growing, most pervasive crime in the
world.

Just the experiences of my friends and family who have
suffered various forms of identity theft have sent chills down my spine as I shared
their pain and imagined the sense of violation they must have felt. One cousin discovered too late that her
credit card had unauthorized charges. An
aunt found thousands of dollars of checks and debits on her bank account that
were fraudulent.

Now I try to be amused

Frank Abagnale’s stories are more colorful and more alarming
than mine. What struck me most was the breadth of cons resulting in identity
theft of one type or another. Stealing credit card numbers, commandeering bank
accounts, abusing social security numbers are just the beginning. Identity
thieves work in rings, or alone, they are precocious kids and unscrupulous
grandmothers. They are Methamphetimine addicts and college professors. They are computer illiterate and software developers. They live in the next hemisphere and in the next apartment. They have criminal records and they are clean as a whistle.

We brought it on ourselves

The cons look so easy, and the bad guys get caught so
rarely, it’s a wonder every isn’t doing it. And its clear that it is just a matter of time before it hits me and
you. So what weapons do we have to
combat the threat? To fight, we must
understand the enemy, Abagnale says. And
that enemy is the system and the society we’ve created and grown accustomed
to. For example, our constant complaints
that the process of checks clearing banks was taking to long led to legislation
that made identity theft easier. We had
debit cards to complete strangers. We
freely surrender our privacy and our identities if it means completing the
service application at the cell phone store a few minutes quicker. By the way, do you ever wonder what happens
to that piece of paper the kid in the mall filled out with your entire life
spelled out on it? Hint: stand there
while he faxes it to headquarters and then ask him to shred it or give it back
to you.

Slow ‘em down, or make them go next door

Abagnale has 20 steps to proactively protect your
identity. None of them cramped my style
or made it seem like I had to disrupt the way I lived or did business. Some were common sense, like shredding financial statements before pitching them, others were
subtle, like opting out of information sharing programs of banks and credit card companies. I instituted a couple
of the practices immediately.

He also explains the PrivacyGuard service and identity theft
insurance offered by financial institutions. (The former is effective if you purchase the right options, the latter
is a scam.)

Credit reporting gestapos, er, bureaus

Abagnale’s guided tour of the dark corridors of credit
reporting bureaus was fascinating. You
get the clear impression these cockroaches of the financial services community
couldn’t care less about you or your financial health. They simply traffic information making no effort
to ensure that the information is correct. I learned that the hard way a few years ago when I had to dispute charges
on a credit card that also showed up on the credit bureau records. The burden was on me to prove that the
charges were false. Abagnale helps you
understand how the system works, and how to fix problems.

What if its too late?

If you’ve already been a victim, or are suffering today, then
Abagnale’s tips on restoring your good name will help. Alas, today, neither the banks, the
government, nor law enforcement is organized to prevent identity theft, so most
of the time you will have to do the leg work yourself. But eventually you can beat it.

Stealing Your Life is an easy book to read. The author’s storytelling style, combined
with his lifelong expertise studying cons and detecting fraud, make this book
the best tutorial on identity theft and best practices to fight it.

About these ads
  1. May 13, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Wonderful. I think I need to get hold of this book. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. May 25, 2007 at 9:26 pm

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    In order to protect yourself from identity fraud and name theft, you must carefully protect your personal records, and pursue online activities with caution. There are a number of things to prevent this.
    http://www.identitysafetytips.com/sitemap.html

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