I've always considered the identity theft protection business to be a bit tawdry. After all, the main players in this area, the big credit bureaus, created the problem in the first place by relentlessly pushing the notion that somehow we are all better off with access to instant credit. This has created a state of affairs where an unscrupulous person, with just a few bits of personal information about you, can become you, at least to the extent of tapping your good name for credit purposes, leaving a trail of wreckage that can destroy your credit and seriously disrupt your life. One would think that credit cards would serve ably to deal with impulse purchases; only in America it seems can credit itself become the impulse purchase.

So how have the credit bureaus dealt with this issue of identity theft, which some reports suggest impacts nearly 10 million Americans each year? Rather than addressing the root cause, they've created lucrative paid services that let consumers monitor their credit files for suspicious activity. Yes, not only has the problem been handed off to consumers to deal with, consumers get to pay for the privilege!

Also, to date, there hasn't been much room for commercial data publishers in this market. After all, the dissemination of credit data is regulated, and virtually all of it is the proprietary content of the big three credit bureaus. But that's not enough to stop a determined data entrepreneur, and what's emerged in this case is a breathtakingly ingenious new product.

A company called Lucid Intelligence, working with another firm called TrustedID, have created a website called StolenIDSearch.com. It's a searchable database containing stolen personal information. Yes, the owners of the website visit hacker sites and have compiled a database of stolen personal information being offered for sale online. Now, you can easily check to see if your personal information may have been purloined. Obviously, if information about you is being offered for sale to criminals and others, you've been compromised and need to take defensive action. The database, by the way, contains stolen information on over 42 million people, 95% of whom are Americans.

This venture may sound a little dodgy, but it's not. It's run by former law enforcement officers who work closely with the police and other investigative agencies and simply want to provide individuals with a proactive read on the safety of their personal information.

The business model is simple: a basic search of the database is free. Full details on your stolen information can be had for a small fee. If you determine you have a problem, TrustedID, the identity protection partner in the service, is right there to offer paid support.

You have to admit it: this one is fiendishly clever, beating the bad guys at their own game.

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