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Grand theft identity

Grand theft identity

Despite ongoing security threats, I've been feeling relaxed and comfortable about the telecommunications revolution lately, mainly because I recently received a revolutionary new mobile phone designed specifically to protect its owner against such threats, especially identity theft.

This so-called "telecommunications revolution" has made us all a little nervous. With the ever-present threat of "identity theft", combined with the twin threats of scam emails and the constant risk that we might accidentally be exposed to nudity whilst innocently visiting sites such as www.nudes'r'us.com, it's hard to know where one can safely turn nowadays. Yet, despite these ongoing security threats, I've been feeling relaxed and comfortable about the telecommunications revolution lately, mainly because I recently received a revolutionary new mobile phone designed specifically to protect its owner against such threats, especially identity theft.

(Incidentally, you can train yourself to quickly and easily spot the victims of such theft, just by listening for tell-tale gaps in their conversations. As an exercise, see if you can spot the identity-theft victim in the following snippet I overheard in a cafe recently between a woman named Ashlee and a man named .

Ashlee: Hey, how you goin'?

: I haven't been feeling myself lately.

That's right! It's Ashlee, who had her real identity, Ashleigh, swapped for a cheap knock-off by an unscrupulous salesman whilst it was being gift wrapped in the back room of a department store. Some of you may have thought it was but in fact he simply left his identity on the bus. Luckily, 's identity was handed into authorities by a civic-minded fellow passenger and will be returned to him next week.)

The revolutionary identity-theft-prevention phone, which I am reviewing for another publication, has a nifty feature known as a "biometric scanner", which means that only the person who owns the phone can access the treasure trove of personal information it contains. In order to access things like the address book, the phone log and the SMS message log, the owner must first swipe his or her finger over the scanner, which then analyses the fingerprint and compares it to a database of unsolved crimes, and reports any matches to David Caruso at CSI: Miami.

Just kidding! The phone just compares the fingerprint scan with a scan the owner made when he or she first bought the phone, and only unlocks itself if the scans match. It is like locking a phone with a long password, except people tend to give up on a password, because it's too bothersome. Swiping one's finger on the biometric scanner, however, should be easy as pie.

After several days of testing this biometric phone, I have concluded that the main form of identity theft, which this phone seems designed to protect against, is, luckily, the very form of identity theft that many readers might hope such a device would protect against - a particularly prevalent form which I shall simply call "spousal identity theft".

This form, which has either happened to or been perpetrated by friends of mine recently, involves the suspicious boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife of the phone owner "borrowing" the phone for a few minutes, usually whilst the owner is in the shower, and either a) rifling through the phone, looking for incriminating SMSs and phone logs; or b) sending phony text messages to all of the ex-boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives of the phone's owner, fishing for incriminating replies; or c) if the shower is long enough, all of the above.

For instance, a suspicious wife named Mallory (and I am making the names up, although not the story) might quietly borrow her boyfriend Bob's phone and quickly send a message saying "Mallory knows!" to Bob's ex-girlfriend Alice. If Alice replies "Huh?" then Bob, for the moment at least, is in the clear. But if Alice replies "OMFG what are we going to do?" then Bob had better leave the shower running when he gets out so he can rinse his wounds whilst contemplating where he's going to sleep that night.

This type of spousal identity theft, which doesn't often make the news because technically it is just identity borrowing, is far more prevalent than some of you might imagine.

More common still is the other type, where the suspicious partner goes through the phone's incoming call log, the outgoing call log, the missed call log, the web browser log, the SMS inbox, outbox, deleted items box and (the one that catches everyone out) the drafts box, looking for clues about what their partner has been up to.

With so many boxes to keep scrubbed, a biometric phone might be just the thing for those of you with a wandering, er, phone bill.

Either that, or a simple plastic case for your current phone should do the trick. Just make sure it's shower proof.

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Tags securityidentity theftbiometrics

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