RealTime IT News

TheftBusters: Coalition to Combat Online ID Fraud

With the rapid growth of online identity theft eroding consumer confidence in the e-commerce sector, heavyweight tech firms, including Microsoft, Amazon.com, Verisign and eBay are teaming up to counter the growing scourge.

The industry-wide group -- Coalition on Online Identity Theft -- launched in tandem with the Arlington, Va.-based trade group Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), said it would promote public education, technology and self-help approaches to combat online identity theft.

According to the ITAA, the coalition plans to document and share non-personal information about emerging online fraudulent activity in order to stay ahead of criminals and new forms of online fraud. It also said it would work with government to cultivate an environment that protects consumers and businesses, and ensure effective enforcement and criminal penalties against cyber thieves.

Online scams -- mostly perpetuate via e-mail -- led to more than 162,000 cases of identity theft last year, according to statistics from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2003, that figure is expected to double and lead to losses of near $3 billion on stolen credit cards alone.

In addition to the tech giants, other founding members of the Coalition include Visa USA, RSA Security, Zone Labs, McAfee Security, TechNet, WholeSecurity, Business Software Alliance and Cyveillance.

The launch of the Coalition comes on the heels of the introduction in January of the federal Social Security Number Misuse Prevention Act to provide consumers with identity theft protection.

"The Coalition is reaching out to other companies and organizations interested in seeking educational, legal and technical solutions to protect consumers and companies from online fraud and safeguard the future of e-business," according to ITAA president Harris Miller.

Miller said the coalition would be coordinating with the FTC, the Justice Department and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Noting that most identity theft comes from offline sources, such as personal information and documents thrown away by the trusting consumer in their usual trash disposal, Miller said the ultimate solution is a "shared responsibility" among industry, government and consumers to advance education and awareness and push for stronger penalties.

The ITAA, which is serving as Secretariat for the Coalition, counts about 400 direct and 26,000 affiliate corporate members throughout the U.S.