Growing up in and around Boston, Massachusetts, I encountered enough urban crime to understand the importance of self-defense from an early age. I studied several forms of defensive training and soon began a career helping others improve their own personal safety. My life became a study of the fundamental principles of personal security, particularly in regard to violence and theft prevention.
I’ve Been a Victim Too
In the mid ‘90s, my small business qualified for merchant status and began accepting Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Within weeks my business received its first fraudulent credit card order. Because the money was ultimately coming out of my pocket, I subsequently tracked the criminal down at home, and over the years I went on to investigate and expose many others who had targeted my business.
A Friend’s Story
Around the year 2000, a good friend’s identity was stolen. A woman had stolen her mail and used her personal information to open a charge card at a local retail chain. My friend got a phone call notifying her that $3000.00 in curtains were ready for pick up. At the time, identity theft was so new that law enforcement wasn’t sure how to respond. But after we found out where the curtains were supposed to end up, law enforcement checked on the address and discovered that the woman who lived there had 45 prior convictions for fraud. She was arrested and eventually prosecuted, but only received a one year suspended sentence.
My Life’s Mission
I knew then that identity theft was on its way to becoming a major ongoing threat. From the late 90’s up through the present I’ve witnessed the exploding growth of identity theft fueled by Internet access, the overuse and availability of Social Security numbers, the speed of technology outpacing that of security, and a fundamentally flawed system of identification.
Personal security has evolved beyond smash and grabs in the physical world to criminal hackers and identity thieves in the virtual world. This new breed of criminal is savvy and technologically proficient, and is able to find the holes and flaws in our existing systems. The rise of the identity thief has resulted in a global crisis, in which anyone can pose as anyone else, at any time, for any reason. From simple credit card fraud to an adult stealing a child’s identity or a terrorist using your data to enter the country, identity theft is as close as it gets to the perfect crime.
Robert Siciliano – Identity Theft Expert and McAfee Consultant on Security Insights Blog