Tech Giants Join Forces Against ID Theft

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A group of industry heavyweights, including Amazon.com, eBay and Microsoft, is joining forces to fight the onslaught of online identity theft, which is hindering online sales and damaging the economy.

The Coalition on Online Identity Theft is geared to focus on public education; promote preventative technology; document and share information regarding online fraudulent activity, and work with government and law enforcement to better protect business and consumers.

''Ultimately, the solution is a shared responsibility among industry, government and consumers to advance education and awareness, stronger penalties, cooperation within industry and law enforcement, and work together to prevent the spread of this problem into e-commerce,'' says Harris N. Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, the high-tech trade group that organized the new coalition.

The coalition, according to industry analysts, has a big job ahead of it.

Identity theft incidents grew by 79 percent in the 12 months between June of 2002 and June of 2003, according to a recent report from Gartner, Inc., a major industry analyst firm. That means 7 million U.S. adults, or 3.4 percent of U.S. consumers, were victims of identity theft during that one-year period. And it's a crime largely going unpunished. Gartner analysts say that thieves have better than a one in 700 chance of being caught by federal authorities.

Researchers at the Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based industry analyst firm, say the problem of identity theft is only getting worse.

The financial damage caused by online identity theft is not only mounting, it's exploding at a growth rate of about 300 percent a year, according to Aberdeen analysts.

Financial loss from identity theft is expected to reach $73.8 billion in the United States by the end of this year -- $221.2 billion worldwide, reports Aberdeen analysts in a recent study. The current trajectory -- based on a 300 percent compound annual growth rate -- has the figures reaching $2 trillion by the end of 2005.

And Aberdeen analysts say it's a profitable crime. It currently pays an average of $9,800 per incident, according to the Aberdeen report.

The coalition formed to fight this problem is initially focused on reaching out to other companies and organizations interested in safeguarding the future of e-business, according to Miller. He adds that the group is going to try to coordinate its efforts with the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Founding members of the coalition include: Amazon.com, the Business Software Alliance, Cyveillance, Inc., eBay, the Information Technology Association of America, McAfee Security, Microsoft, RSA Security Inc., TechNet, Verisign, Visa U.S.A., WholeSecurity, Inc., and Zone Labs, Inc.

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