The New York Times is hyping the identity theft problem, charges media critic Jack Shafer of Slate.com. In a story summarized yesterday in Crime & Justice News, the Times says that some methamphetamine users have “outpaced” law enforcement’s “efforts to stop them” in the Phoenix area. “Try as it may,” Shafer writes, “the piece never translates the criminal inventiveness in Arizona into anything close to a technological ‘edge’ enjoyed by ID thieves over law enforcement.” He notes that the article reports that Visa has reduced its loss from fraud.
Shafer says the idea of rampant ID theft grows out of the federal government’s 2003 estimate of a $48 billion loss to the economy from identity theft. He is dubious of those numbers. A survey of 4,057 U.S. adults found that 1.5 percent of them claimed that they had suffered the kind of classic kind of identity theft most of us worry about. He says the report does not say how the $48 billion is calculated; it appears to include all misuses of credit cards, a much broader category than identity theft.