It's no secret that identity theft in the U.S. is increasing. It seems that new methods for stealing personal data improve as quickly as law enforcement can detect and stop it. This leaves many Americans wondering how identity thieves are still able to obtain their information if they are taking all of the necessary steps to prevent it. One problem may lie in the length of time that personal data is stored in electronic databases, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal demonstrated their claim by relaying part of an article that appeared in the newspaper's Weekend Investor section. The article reports that Susan Kusio was recently one of the 3.3 million Americans notified by student loan service ECMC that their personal information had been compromised in a data breach. The notification came as a shock to her family because Susan Kusio had been killed in a car accident nearly 30 years ago, according to the article.
The scenario highlights the problem associated with holding large amounts of sensitive information in a database for long periods of time. This is especially true if, in the case of Susan Kusio, the information is not updated. While most criminals may prey on adults or even children who have not yet established a credit history, some thieves may go after the identities of the deceased, making detection very difficult.
"Historically, people have not seen the risk of holding data," software company ID Analytics government affairs vice president Tom Oscherwitz told the Journal. "How do we protect the legacy systems?"
Each company or organization may have different regulations regarding how data is stored and who may handle sensitive information, the newspaper reports. Depending on each entity's rules, information relating to credit card accounts, student loans and medical records may pass through many different hands in the event that a company is acquired or merged, the Journal adds.
Identity theft affects nearly 11 million Americans each year. While most individuals understand the risks of identity theft and take measures to safeguard their information, many businesses and government organizations fall short of providing the necessary protections. A recent article reveals that some office equipment, such as photocopiers, maintain a hard drive that collects and retains any information copied. This may include employee tax and employment forms which often reveal the worker's name, date of birth and Social Security number.