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09/17/2006

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Ivan

Prof. Becker:
It is difficult to sympathize with people who are "taken" because they are trying to get rich quickly in ways that usually involve participating in illegal activities. Still, effective deterrence of identity theft would be desirable since so many people are victims.


It would be interesting to see some actual data about the relative frequencies of varous forms of identity theft. Many types of identity theft do not involve the Internet at all. In many cases, thieves obtain the victims' personal information by dumpster diving (see for example: http://www.atg.wa.gov/consumer/idprivacy/dumpster_diving.shtml). Even when it comes to spam-based identity theft, many such e-mails are aimed at customers of major banks, pretending to be notices requiring their personal information as a part of a supposed routine bureaucratic procedure. Although I have no hard data to back it, my impression is that spam soliciting illegal activities accounts for a relatively small fraction of the total identity theft crime.


Prof. Becker:
Identity thieves prey on the fears and greed of people.


Again, my impression is that most successful identity thefts are based on naivete and carelessness, rather than fear or greed. People often don't bother to shred documents before throwing them away, or to think twice before responding to a phone call or e-mail asking for personal information. But it would certainly be very interesting if someone could post a link to some concrete data about this.

Richard Mason

A curious feature of phishing spam and spam in general is that the standard of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and so forth is almost always lower, and often much lower, than that in the real business email it is trying to impersonate.

This casts some doubt on the idea that phishers are well-educated people. Of course, in many cases English may not be their first language. Still, it seems odd that phishers do not find it economically worthwhile to enlist good copywriters.

Muxec

I do not remember the exact number, but the price of human life in Becker's "Crime and Punishment" was about 2 mil.$. 10M>>2M. Does it mean, that Becker thinks, that phishers deserve capital punishment instead of years in jail?

Ivan

Richard Mason:
A curious feature of phishing spam and spam in general is that the standard of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and so forth is almost always lower, and often much lower, than that in the real business email it is trying to impersonate.

In my experience, phishing spam purporting to come from banks etc. is usually composed in perfect business English and carefully reproduces the design of the legitimate materials issued by the company being impersonated. The Nigerian-type messages are another story altogether. However, they usually purport to come from people who are themselves non-native speakers (widows of African dictators etc.), so that clumsy English actually adds to their credibility.

Regular, non-phishing spam nowadays has to be badly mangled to avoid filters.

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