2007 seems to have been the year of the missing identity. Most recently, the Globe and Mail reported that a computer tape is missing from Iron Mountain, a data storage company. The tape is believed to have information on 650,000 credit card holders, including customers of J.C. Penney and up to 100 other retailers.
From The Globe and Mail:
GE Money, which handles credit card operations for Penney and many other retailers, said Thursday night that the missing information includes Social Security numbers for about 150,000 people.
The information was on a backup computer tape that was discovered missing last October. It was being stored at a warehouse run by Iron Mountain Inc., a data storage company, and was never checked out but can't be found either, said Richard C. Jones, a spokesman for GE Money, part of General Electric Capital Corp.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, six times the number of records reported were compromised in the United States alone. The breach report covers only the United States, and it includes only those breaches that are confirmed by a credible source. The 2007 report identifies 448 breaches, with a total of 127,718,335 records exposed. This number does not include ball-park figures for breaches that could not confirm the number of records exposed. The actual number is likely to be higher.
Jones said GE Money was paying for 12 months of credit-monitoring service for customers whose Social Security numbers were on the tape.
Credit card fraud is generally easy to spot. The customer's liability is capped at $50, which is frequently waived by the creditor. But identity theft can take months and even years to find out about and resolve. This, in addition to the increase in breached information, is causing a slight increase in privacy concerns, according to a survey from the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future.
Privacy concerns stemming from online shopping rose in 2007, a new study finds, as the loss or theft of credit card information and other personal data soared to unprecedented levels.
Sixty-one percent of adult Americans said they were very or extremely concerned about the privacy of personal information when buying online, an increase from 47 percent in 2006. Before last year, that figure had largely been dropping since 2001.
Security will continue to be a concern for everyone. Unfortunately, the greatest threat to an individual's security is often themselves. But as J.C. Penney has proven again, even the most careful of us can be compromised.