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Blogging background checking and security issues

3.31.2005

Identity Theft - Real Solutions Needed

The LA Times reports that legislation is being proposed to address the increasingly common problem of identity theft. The law is aimed at California, where the article says that identity is more prevalent that in any other state, but I expect we’ll be seeing similar legislation proposed in other states soon.

It’s good to see that it’s being taken more seriously, but as long as a person’s identity is tied to numbers on paper there will still be problems. It will be a never-ending competition between those who steal identities and law enforcement seeking to prevent it from happening. A more foolproof system of identification based on biometrics will probably emerge eventually, but we’re looking at some serious $$ to put that in place.

In the meantime people, and specifically employers, have to learn how to deal properly with the impact of identity theft. Right now anyone who has been the victim of identity theft needs to contact the three major credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. They will put an alert on the individual’s report that requires anyone seeking to open credit with the individual’s information to first contact the individual directly for confirmation.

However, a problem with the current process is not the process itself, but the way an individual or employer reads the credit report. Some employers are extremely paranoid and anything that says *Alert* will make them want to disqualify an applicant for employment. So in addition to the hassle of dealing with correcting problems caused by a stolen identity, a person might also lose out on future job offers.

Solutions are needed. Like I said above, biometrics might be a good longer-term solution. In the shorter-term laws like the ones being proposed in California will no doubt help, though they’ll have to keep pace with current methods of identity theft. Recipients of credit reports also need to be educated about how to properly interpret the reports, and in the employment field this means checking with legal counsel before making any serious decisions. Turning a job applicant down because he or she was the victim of identity theft is a decision that probably won’t fare well in court.

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