Opting into Identity Theft

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2004-07-21 Print this article Print

Are victims unwittingly giving criminals the okay to steal their identities? (PC Magazine)

Last year, I did some research on the prevalence of identify theft and the difficulty victims faced in recovering their lives. I learned a couple of things. One, an identity can be stolen in a millisecond, and it can take years to get it all back. Two, criminals are quite creative with the methods they use to filch identities. They use everything from spyware and worms to monitor keystrokes and steal passwords to the occasional dumpster dive for discarded credit card receipts. Yet, despite all of these methods, I never came across a mention of phishing as a potential source.

Identity theft reached critical mass in the public consciousness over the past few years, culminating in a fusillade of comical Citibank commercials that made it common knowledge, if not something of a joke (theres a whole side thread here about whether or not Citibanks ad campaign could backfire, with people instead having warm, humorous thoughts whenever they think of identity theft).

Oracle and Novell are debuting technology platforms that can handle federated identity management. Click here to read more. Phishings rise to recognition, on the other hand, has been nothing short of meteoric. As recently as last January, it was a term virtually unknown to anyone except geeks and security experts. Now you have, Id reckon, a 50-50 chance of getting a correct answer if you walk up to someone on the street and ask if theyve ever been phished, or (if you want to help them a bit) if theyve ever received a phishing e-mail.

But whats more fascinating and frightening about phishing is that its now become the identity theft ploy you opt into. For those unfamiliar with opt-in, its what you do when a Web site page asks during, say, a commerce transaction, if you want to receive its weekly e-mail newsletter featuring great deals. If you check "yes," youve opted in.

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Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched AskDrPC.com, and KidRaves.com and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, Winmag.com won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join Deja.com as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched PCMag.com in July 2001. The new PCMag.com was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, PCMag.com regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and PCMag.com, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for PCMag.com and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New York's Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNews' Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media Wire's Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC Magazine's weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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