It seems too cruel, but Katrina's victims have one more thing to worry about: identity theft.
An AP story speaks of Social Security cards, driver's licenses, credit cards and other personal documents literally floating around New Orleans, raising the prospect some hurricane survivors could be victimized again — this time by identity thieves.
According to Betsy Broder, the attorney who oversees the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft program:
Survivors giving personal data to insurance adjustors or Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives should be certain they're dealing with legitimate individuals and “not crooks who are trying to trick them out of their information so they can commit identity theft.”
Once victims are able to get access to phones, Internet and mail, they should check their credit card and bank statements to see if there's been any unusual activity.
Meanwhile, scams have arisen to bilk people who are donating money over the internet.
The FBI also warned people wanting to donate money for Katrina survivors to beware of scammers who solicit online donations to lure victims into giving up credit card numbers and other sensitive information.
“There are people out there who are willing to stoop so low as to scam people who are willing to open their hearts and wallets to people in need,” said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
Yes, there are professionals “out there” organized internationally so as to scam us with apparent impunity. This is a key point made in the Laws of Identity whitepaper.
He said the bureau has identified about 2,000 Web sites related to the Katrina relief effort. Most are legitimate, Bresson said, but the FBI is investigating about a dozen for possible fraud.
According to other reports, the main scam sites are posing as well-known organizations like the Red Cross. After stealing your personal identifying information, including credit card numbers, they pop you back on to the legitimate site creating a real sense that all is normal.
This is yet another case where we need an Internet Identity Metasystem with a consistent user experience that allow us to be sure – when we want certainty – about who we are talking to on the internet.