Purdue News

August 16, 2005

Security expert quizzes public about identity theft risk

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Thieves don't need high-tech access to computer data to steal identities because too many people make their personal information readily available, says a Purdue University cybercrime expert.

Scott L. Ksander has been taking that message to standing-room-only public forums. The senior inforensics analyst with the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security has been working with law enforcement officials for several years to unravel and thwart identity theft crimes. Ksander encourages members of the public to examine ways in which they help or hinder thieves.

Ksander, who investigates security issues for Information Technology at Purdue, uses, with permission of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the following quiz to help people assess the risk of their identities being stolen:

• I receive several offers of pre-approved credit every week (5 points). Add 5 more points if you do not shred them.

• I carry my Social Security card in my wallet (10).

• My driver's license has my Social Security number on it (10).

• I do not have a post office box or locked, secured mailbox (5).

• I use an unlocked, open box at work or at home to drop off my outgoing mail (10).

• I carry my military ID in my wallet at all times (10).

• I provide my Social Security number whenever asked, without asking questions about how that information will be safeguarded (10). Add 5 more points if you provide your number orally without checking to see who might be listening.

• I am required to use my Social Security number at work as an employee ID or at school as a student ID number (5).

• My Social Security number is printed on various documents frequently seen in the workplace, such as on time cards (10).

• I have my Social Security number and/or driver's license number printed on my personal checks (10).

• I am listed in a "Who's Who" guide (5).

• I carry my insurance card in my wallet, and either my Social Security number or that of my spouse is on that card (10).

• I have not ordered a copy of my credit report for at least two years (20).

• I do not protect my discarded personal, credit and financial information from thieves by shredding them prior to putting them in the trash (10).

If you scored 100 points or more you are at high risk for identity theft. A score of 50-100 makes your odds of being victimized about average but higher if you have good credit. A score of 0—50 points means you have a low risk of being an identity theft victim.

Ksander says the biggest key to securing your Social Security number and thus your identification is using common sense.

"You need to be aware and diligent," he says.

Writer: Jim Schenke, (765) 494-6262, jschenke@purdue.edu

Source: Scott Ksander, (765) 496-8289, ksander@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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