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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

More armoury in the fight against illegal identity trading

13 July, 2009
Two ex-Metropolitan police fraud officers have set up a database of ID data which they've discovered in the wild for searching by potential fraud victims
Lucid Intelligence was set up as a service to potential victims of identity theft. The concept of the operation is to trawl in all the identity data that has fallen into criminal hands and is floating around on bulletin boards, trading sites and other internet sources to enable the owners to identify whether they're at risk and to what extent they are likely to fall victim.

With the database now comprising over 120 million records, in the wrong hands such information could be used for any number of criminal purposes including extortion through fear, exploitation of potential victims or indeed selling on to other parties. However, Lucid Intelligence was set up by Colin Holder and Tim Harvey, both of whom have long service records in London's Metropolitan police in the Economic Crimes Unit and the Fraud Office and their aim is to cut through public sector and banking industry red tape to provide a simple service that provides a conclusive risk assessment. The service is free to use for the risk assessment and a nominal charge is made for a detailed report to cover the authentication work necessary under the Data Protection Act to make sure they're not passing sensitive information on to a person who has no right to access it.

Rather than merely a passive service, Lucid Intelligence also passes credit card details it finds on the internet to the relevant law enforcement bodies. However, what action is then taken as a result is up to those bodies and the relevant banks which is probably not as much as what you'd expect which is why the majority of card holders never even know that they're at risk. Before throwing your hands in the air and saying unpleasant things about the banks though, there is a good commercial reason for not reacting to every potentially compromised card by informing the customer and replacing the card. For various reasons, a large number of stolen credit card numbers are never actually used by the criminals and the banks have mechanisms in place to monitor card activities and either deny use or request further verification depending on risk factors. This is a cheaper option for the bank than deploying a knee-jerk reaction to every potentially compromised card.

Clearly, reporting stolen card numbers to the police is an incomplete service which is why the database has now been made available for self checking. The process is relatively simple and involves going to Lucid Intelligence's website and following the steps there. Some verification steps are necessary after which the user can find out their risk level and the kind of information that is held. The users' actions as a result of this depends on the risk level and the information involved. They can either take the paid service for full details or they can approach their bank if necessary, tighten their own awareness levels or do nothing.

However, even for those at low risk, the Lucid Intelligence site is worth further exploration to discover the 5 step plan suggested by the company for preventing identity theft and monitoring your own risk levels without spending any money. These steps include the use of personal internet search tools, obtaining free credit statements and protecting your computer with free reputable protection software.
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