Aug 14 2008   10:19PM GMT

Let’s Not Overuse “Identity Theft”

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

I’ve noticed lately that the press has started applying this term liberally when data is stolen. Data theft is NOT the same thing as identity theft. (And when did we start capitalizing it, by the way?) Data theft does not equal identity theft, because not all data that is stolen is used to acquire someone else’s identity.

What comprises identity theft? Someone who has taken on your personal information in order to become you in the eyes of financial entities. Your identity is used to rob you. It’s much nastier than having your credit card replaced by your bank because a business has been hacked or had a trusted insider steal data. As unpleasant as that is, it is not in the same league as having to spend hours contacting police departments, credit bureaus and banks to try and correct your personal financial history. Or even being arrested because there are warrants out for fraud committed in your name.

I noticed this during the announcements for the indictments of 11 people that variously referred to “A massive case of identity theft,” or “11 Identity Thieves indicted….” Feds charge 11 in largest Identity Theft Heist..”

“Identity Theft” has become an overused title for news articles and a marketing ploy for another generation of businesses that sell “free” credit reporting, “identity protection” and other similar items.

Google for “Identity Theft” and there are over 21 million entries; google for “data theft” and there are “only” 1 and a half million or so. Interesting, isn’t it?

Now if you do the same thing, and remove all the dot com (business) entries for “identity theft,” you get a much smaller sample. Less than half.

The results are equally striking for “data theft” without the dot coms.

Isn’t marketing grand?

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Benjaminwright215
    Arian: Careful reading of the indictments of the TJX data thieves show that the media, card issuers and Federal Trade Commission over-reacted to the TJX incident. The TJX break-in was not as bad as we were led to believe. --Ben [A href=""][/A]
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  • Arian Eigen Heald
    That may be true, Ben, but 40 million is still not my idea of small!
    75 pointsBadges:

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