Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Rational Response?

Sitting at a coffeeshop today, I listened to the fellow behind me try to get Dell and Equifax to agree to fix his credit. It seems that his father passed away recently, in debt to Dell over a computer. That debt is now on his credit report, despite his not being a co-signer for the loan.

Over at Motley Fool, Rich Smith writes about “What, Me Worry About ID Theft?” He starts from Choicepoint and Lexis Nexis, and his thesis is:

But what’s even scarier is the utter complacency with which the victims of these attacks — the owners of the social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and such like information that was stolen — are reacting. Or rather, not reacting….there’s just no logical reason why potential victims of ID theft would pass on an offer of free protection. No logical reason except one, that is: They just don’t care.

Hard as that is to fathom, it suggests that the data collection industry may escape this series of fiascoes without Congress imposing additional regulations on it. Voters who don’t care enough about their own data security to accept an offer of free protection are not likely to be expending much effort lobbying Congress for tighter regulations.

I tend to doubt claims that thousands of people are acting irrationally. I believe that there’s a second logical reason not to bother with credit monitoring services: You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Watching your credit report is like the old description of war: Years of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.

What would this fellow behind me have gained by watching his report? The knowledge that he had to go through this earlier. Does that really help? Does it help as much as a well-crafted new law might? Or even a reasonably-crafted one?

People may well, and rationally, be spending their energy complaining to their Congressmen. The problem is a widespread abuse of the Social Security number as identifier and authenticator. People understand that, and resist giving them out. They’re going to look to Congress for support.

One comment on "Rational Response?"

  • Justin Mason says:

    wow, what a thing to have to deal with after a bereavement! nice.
    BTW another possible reason people aren’t availing of “free protection” is suspicion — I know I would never take an offer from a bank, credit lender, credit rating agency, or similar company at face value.

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