Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Wednesday,
Sep 03rd
Home Columns Ancestral Discovery Stealing our ancestors?

Stealing our ancestors?

E-mail Print PDF

Recently, I was told by my credit union that there had been a security breach for cardholders, and they were issuing new cards to prevent any further problems. This kind of situation is becoming more common as technology advances, especially in the arena of identity theft. Why am I writing about this?

Because genealogy is affected by this trend everyday.

Here are some common fears we hear about when people are trying to steal our identity:

Fear: People use genealogical databases to get your mother’s maiden name.

Reality: We often hear about financial institutions and others asking for our mother’s maiden name. While this still happens occasionally, it is increasingly rare, just as social security number requests are being phased out, and often there are alternatives to giving these specific items. Also, there are often many mistakes in online databases, especially family histories that are unverified.

Fear: Thieves go to cemeteries to get names and dates from our ancestors to use.

Reality: While this rarely happened in the past, that information is fairly useless without an accompanying social security number.

Fear: Thieves use the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to get our ancestors social security numbers to use.

Reality: Again, while this happened a few times in the past, it almost never happens now. Additionally, it usually doesn’t work, simply because merchants and institutions routinely check numbers given to them by customers against the SSDI, through their credit card company.

More important, obtaining and using this information is on a retail level, compared with the wholesale capturing and illegal use of information. Simply put, it’s a lot more work to get these specific pieces of information from genealogical databases, compared with simply stealing a laptop or hacking into a database to get hundreds of thousands of names.

Because of the above fears, there a number of calls by misinformed legislators and others to close or significantly restrict access of databases that are of vital use to genealogists. Particularly vulnerable are vital records — birth, marriage, divorce and death records held by local or state governments.

There are no known cases of identity thefts involving these kind of records, yet they are easy targets for the overzealous.

The Records Preservation and Access Committee (www.fgs.org/?rpac), a joint committee of the National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Societies, said this on their website:

“An Associated Press study of state laws passed in the five years after 9/11 found that more than 1,000 laws regarding access to records were passed. Of these, for every one law that gave greater access there were more than two laws that restricted access.”

Fortunately, genealogists, historians, journalists, archivists and other researchers are monitoring this trend, while educating legislators and other government officials and, if necessary, fighting the restriction of this public information. So when you hear of people talking about identity theft, help educate people about the real facts of how it predominately happens.

 

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

For Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, there is no joy in debut

mbrodsky For a moment it looked like the Dodgers’ hotshot prospect would be a hero in his first major league at-bat, but it wasn’t to be. ... [Link]

In lame-duck period, Obama administration retreats from peace endeavors

Ron Kampeas With the world in turmoil, President Obama’s last thousand days in office are not likely to be focused on Israeli-Palestinian peace. ... [Link]

Israel’s land seizure: political favor or West Bank game-changer?

Ben Sales Israel has drawn international criticism after seizing nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land, but some experts say the move is relatively insignificant. ... [Link]

Memorial to Nazi ‘euthanasia’ victims dedicated in Berlin

Julie Wiener Germany dedicated a memorial in Berlin to the more than 200,000 people with physical and mental disabilities who were murdered by the Nazis. ... [Link]

Manhattan’s Ramaz school clarifies advice on concealing kippahs

Uriel Heilman The principal of an Orthodox day school in New York who suggested that students might want to conceal signs of their Jewishness while walking around the neighborhood disagrees — with himself. ... [Link]

Why the U.S. and Israel are not getting along

Uriel Heilman The Obama administration and the Israeli government are looking at the same war but seeing things much differently. ... [Link]

Stan Goldberg, superhero of comic-book illustration, dies at 82

Julie Wiener Comic-book artist Stan Goldberg, the color designer for Marvel Comics’ classic superheroes, has died. ... [Link]

Polish city marks first rabbinic ordination since World War II

Julie Wiener The Polish city of Wroclaw had its first rabbinic ordination since before World War II in its only synagogue to survive the Holocaust. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com