IDENTIFY THEFT AND FRAUD

August 1, 2015


I recently completed writing a training module for PDHonline.org.  PDH publishes documents allowing engineers and architects to satisfy their annual requirements for continuing education units (CEUs).  There are thirty-six (36) states requiring CEUs for continued listing as a professional engineer or professional architect.  My newest module is “BIOMETRICS”.   Biometric technology is one possible method for eliminating or lessening theft and fraud.  I was absolutely amazed at the level of fraud each year in our country.

When we consider the number of identity theft and fraud cases each year, we see the following picture.  Add to the numbers below the instances of money laundering and you get a difficult situation hard to believe.  Let’s take a look.

  • Approximately  fifteen (15)  million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year, with financial losses totaling upwards of fifty billion ($50 B).  I have personally been the victim three times relative to identity theft.  Not stolen cards, but someone “lifting” my numbers, recreating the card and charging at will.
  • On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately seven percent (7%) of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
  • Close to one hundred (100) million additional Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft each year when records maintained in government and corporate databases are lost or stolen.  We have just seen this recently with Federal employees.
  • On average, banks charge nineteen percent (19%) for a returned check and fiver dollars ($5.00) to the depositor. Assuming a combined revenue stream to banks of twenty-four dollars ($24.00) for returning a check, with 300 million returned checks, the annual revenue from returned checks is seven billion dollars ($7billion).  Some banks, generally the larger nation-wide banks, charge upwards to $50.00 for a returned check.
  • Ernst & Young reports that more than five hundred (500) million checks are forged annually.   The American Banker, an industry magazine, predicts that there will be a twenty-five percent (25%) increase in check fraud in the 2016 year.
  • Money laundering has increased over the last ten years. As a result, global efforts to combat this crime have increased. While it is extremely difficult to estimate the amount of worldwide money laundering, one model estimated that in 1998 it was near $2.85 trillion.
  • According to Meridian Research, estimated fraud loss for the credit card industry amounts to $1.5 billion annually, of which $230 million is estimated to result from online transactions. MasterCard reported a 33.7% increase in worldwide fraud from 1998 to 1999. During the first quarter of 2000, fraud losses increased 35.3% over the last quarter in 1999. VISA reports similar trends. It is estimated that fraud losses for online transactions may exceed $500 million in 2000. Fraudulent credit card activities include the use of counterfeit, stolen, and never received cards, as well as account takeover, mail order and Internet card-not present transactions.
  • The FBI estimates losses from check fraud total $18.7 billion annually in our country alone.
  • Health care fraud costs the United States tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a rising threat, with national health care expenditures estimated to exceed $3 trillion in 2014 and spending continuing to outpace inflation. Recent cases also show that medical professionals continue, and may be more willing, to risk patient harm in furtherance of their schemes.  Medicare has no official estimate of the amount of money lost to fraud each year, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation refers to estimates of three to ten percent of all health care billings. In 2011, Medicare expenditures totaled approximately $565 billion. If the FBI percentages are applied to this amount, the cost of Medicare fraud for the 2011 fiscal year was anywhere from $17-57 billion.
  • According to an FBI report on insurance fraud, published on its web site under “The Economic Crimes Unit” section, total insurance industry fraud is $27.6 billion annually. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud breaks the total down across the insurance industry as follows:
    • Auto $12.3 billion ·
    • Homeowners $1.8 billion ·
    •  Business/Commercial $12 billion ·
    • Life/Disability $1.5 billion

Economic crimes in this area include those committed both internally and externally. Internal fraud can manifest itself in bribery of company officials, misrepresentation of company information for personal gain, and the like.

  • In his testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary on March 21, 2000, Chairman Arthur Levitt stated that Internet securities fraud is on the rise. He stated that there will be over 5.5 million online brokerage accounts by year end. The SEC has seen a rapid rise in Internet fraud in this area, with most of it occurring between 1998 and 1999. One recent pyramid scheme raised more than $150 million from over 155,000 investors before it was shut down. Securities fraud takes the form of stock manipulation, fraudulent offerings, and illegal touts conducted through newspapers, meetings, and cold calling, among others. These same scams have been conducted electronically, but are now joined by some newer, more sophisticated fraudulent activity. These include momentum-trading web sites, scalping recommendations, message boards posted by imposters, web sites for day trading recommendations, and misdirected messages. Investors are suffering large losses due to these cyber crimes.
  • The U.S. Secret Service estimates that telecommunication fraud losses exceed $1 billion annually.  Other estimates range from three ($3) billion to twelve ($12) billion.  Subscription or identity fraud involves using false or stolen IDs or credit cards to gain free service and anonymity. It has tripled since 1997, says Rick Kemper, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association’s (CTIA) director of wireless technology and security, a trend he attributes to criminals favoring subscription fraud over cloning, plus increased industry competition to reach a broader and riskier market. The International Data Corporation (IDC: Framingham, MA) stated that, “Fraud remains endemic to the wireless industry, with estimated loses expected to reach a staggering $677 million by 2002…”   One of the key reasons is the dramatic increase of subscription fraud which IDC estimates will reach $473 million by 2002.17 Telemarketing fraud resulted in losses to victims of over $40 billion in 1998.   In 1996, the FBI estimated that there were over 14,000 telemarketing firms that were involved in fraudulent acts, the majority of which victimized the elderly.
  • Intellectual property theft – in the form of trademark infringement, cyber squatters, typo squatters, trade-secret theft, and copyright infringement – has increased as Internet use and misuse has risen. It occurs across the seven industries detailed here, as well as most other businesses. “According to the American Society for Industrial Security, American businesses have been losing $250 billion a year from intellectual property theft since the mid-1990’s.

These alarming statistics demonstrate identity theft and fraud may be the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States and on a global basis.  There is also a growing belief that biometrics may be able to lessen to a very great degree identity theft.   Let’s take a look at the “BIOMETRIC SUITE”:

Biometric Suite

The methods used, relative to allowing access to information and location, must be determined by careful consideration of 1.) Cost, 2.) Interface with existing computer equipment and computer code, 3.) Level of social intrusion tolerated, 4.) Ease in maintenance of equipment and 5.) Level of security required by the facility.  You would expect entry into a nuclear facility to be more difficult that entry into an NFL locker room. You get the point.  All of these factors must be considered with converting from existing systems to biometric technology.

I do NOT think anyone would disagree that something MUST be done to lessen identity theft and fraudulent activity.  The FED won’t really do this.  They are much too busy getting reelected, establishing their “brand”, satisfying their “base and securing their “legacy”.  Change must occur through the private sector.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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