Redefining the problem

This morning, the Boston Globe takes a bold stance on a controversial issue, and I find myself agreeing with them that identity theft is bad. But they don’t take it quite as far as they should.

They cite the theft of 45 million debit and credit card numbers from TJX — and the inept way the incident was managed by TJX — as proof that we need tougher laws on the books. But that’s a prime example of one of the Globe’s favorite tactics — conflating two issues to either push their own agenda, or suppress reality.

Usually, it’s illegal aliens. There they blur illegal aliens and resident aliens into “immigrants,” and push hard for issues that benefit the former but almost never apply to the latter. This time, though, they’re blending credit card fraud with identity theft.

I’m no criminal mastermind, or even a criminologist, but I strongly suspect that the people behind the TJX theft weren’t interested in setting up bogus identities. They were far more interested in stealing cash and merchandise using those numbers.

The real market for identity theft, though, is those who are dearest to the Globe’s hearts — the criminals “out to get a fresh start” and the illegal aliens “just trying to do the jobs Americans won’t do.” They’re the ones who need the fresh identities, and they need them long-term. That’s why I don’t think the TJX case was motivated by the prospect of identity theft. It was so big, so brazen, made such a big splash, that the value of that data had a fairly short shelf life. It was primarily good for a quick score, not a long-term scheme.

Of course, the Globe follows true to its traditional form. Do they call for stricter penalties for those who commit the thefts? Nah. Instead, they want to ratchet up the fines for companies that don’t properly secure their information, and stick a new burden on the credit reporting agencies. The appropriateness of those measures is certainly debatable, but I think it’s incredibly enlightening that the Globe doesn’t even toss off a sentence towards stiffer sentences for the thieves themselves. It’s like responding to a rash of burglaries by mandating everyone buy stronger locks and mandating that alarm companies sell their systems at cost.

So, why the big fuss over identity theft here? Because, I suspect, they want to deflect attention from the actual problem. They support the “right” of illegal aliens to work, and to do so they need to provide Social Security numbers. Some of those are made up, some are stolen — but a good chunk of them are valid numbers, belonging to real people, and their identities are being stolen every day by these illegal aliens, causing future headaches and complications when the victims try to claim their Social Security benefits, only to find out that they held a bunch of jobs they never knew about.

And if that illegal alien files for Social Security first under that number (which has happened), then it’s even worse for the poor schmuck.

So the Boston Globe finds that it has to somehow tolerate identity theft, as long as it’s the “good” kind. But there’s a huge public upswell to crack down on it. What to do?

Why, deflect the matter. Confuse identity theft with credit card fraud, then channel all that anger against big business. Meanwhile, the thieves continue their efforts unhindered by tougher laws, and the illegal aliens can continue pulling their little cons.

It’s a fairly decent scheme. I just wish the Globe wasn’t so transparent.

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