Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Thursday,
Mar 26th
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!

Cast Your Vote

What prevents you from being more involved in Jewish institutions?
 

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Suit against anti-Iran group dismissed over national security

Marcy Oster Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis sued United Against Nuclear Iran for saying he was fronting for the Iranian government in its bid to bypass energy sector sanctions. ... [Link]

Lawmakers introduce bill to stymie Israel boycotts

Marcy Oster Under the Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act, prospective contractors with the U.S. government would be required to certify that they are not participating in any boycotts against Israel. ... [Link]

Israeli press talking out of its asteroid?

Julie Wiener Several Israeli media outlets wrongly reported that a harmless asteroid could mean the end of the world. ... [Link]

Palestinian, 20, dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers in clash

Marcy Oster Ali Mahmoud Safi, 20, was shot in the chest on March 18 during a protest at a refugee camp near Ramallah in the West Bank; he remained in a coma until he was pronounced dead on March 25. ... [Link]

French firm, citing political concerns, quits Jerusalem rail project

Marcy Oster After two years of feasibility studies on the cable car project, the company said it wanted “to avoid any political interpretation.” ... [Link]

Will haredi Orthodox Jews embrace pre-nups that protect women from becoming agunot?

Gabe Friedman This Saturday will mark a new milestone in the fight to end the agunah crisis: for what is believed to be the first time, haredi Orthodox couples will attend a “Halachic Prenup/Postnup” party in B... [Link]

Jewish frat shut down at U. of Michigan

Uriel Heilman The move was prompted by a wild party at a Michigan ski resort that left 45 hotel rooms trashed and $430,000 worth of damage. ... [Link]

Some of Lincoln’s best friends were Jews

Julie Wiener Not only did the 16th president free the slaves, but he also stood up for the Jews, a new exhibit and book show. ... [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