Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How the Rich and Famous Foil Identity Theft

By Ben Steverman

Identity thieves generally pretend to be real people, create some false accounts, and spend like there's no tomorrow. The rich and famous, on the other hand, already spend that way and are pleased to maintain their true identities. Yet they're increasingly falsifying accounts of their own lives.

It's always been a struggle for the wealthy to hide from the prying eyes of everyone, from curiosity seekers to criminals. Now that every transaction is tracked by retailers, government agencies, and banks, to name a few digital data hounds, it's nearly impossible to erase the lurid details of your life.

What the wealthy can do is hire security consultants who counteract the truth with waves of false information -- stories of homes not purchased, vacation destinations never visited, and cars never leased. Their hope: False information obscures the real stuff.
"The only way to truly prevent a breach of privacy is to wipe the slate clean and create a new identity," says Jeremy M. Kroll, co-founder of K2 Global Consulting.

"Security by confusion"

That is near impossible for most people. The more realistic option: Use "security by confusion" to reinvent yourself, says Christopher Falkenberg, president of Insite Security. If you’re disturbed that a picture and the address of your mansion is online, you might flood the net with 18 other photos and addresses linked to you. When juiced by the techniques of search engine optimization, the false leads will end up on the first page of search results, while your real address is buried on page 3 or 4. On the Internet, says privacy expert and author Frank M. Ahearn, "Not everything can be deleted and the only answer is deception."

Falkenberg and Ahearn readily admit to performing such trickery on behalf of their clients because there’s nothing illegal about it...

Increased online vulnerability means other tried-and-true privacy protection techniques are being used more often. Jonathan Crystal, of high-end insurance brokerage Frank Crystal & Company, sees more clients buying property through shell corporations or LLCs. While in the past, property records were stored in a filing cabinet in the county building, they’re often now online for anyone to see. "There is a recognition that there is no such thing as ‘quiet wealth’ anymore," Crystal says. By buying through such entities, the wealthy are following a path forged by celebrities: Britney Spears has bought properties through the "Love Shack Trust," and Sarah Palin admitted to buying Arizona property in 2011 through "Safari Investments LLC." [Note: looks like the hidden identity trick didn't work that well for Spears and Palin, if the shell companies used by them are posted on the internet--RW]

Read the rest here.

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