CRIMINALS with a penchant for taking on multiple personas may find identity theft much less lucrative in the short term.
Financial institutions are now being given direct access to the TRN database, and credit card fraud should become more difficult when plastic fitted with microchips are introduced locally next year.
The cloning of credit and debit cards costs banks millions of dollars annually, while falsifying taxpayer registration numbers (TRNs) in Jamaica has been identified by the police as the fastest-growing form of identity theft.
"When you present your TRN at the bank, that number would be checked, to make sure that it belongs to you," said Wendell Smith of the new bank procedure.
Smith, who oversees information technology at Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), told the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange yesterday that the Government demonstrated the service to financial institutions about two months ago. It is now "working out the details of making it (TRN verification) available on a transaction basis".
Many transactions require the use of a TRN, especially when a form has to be filled out.
Even then, the cloning of cards can still pose a problem when individuals are able to present fake identification.
However, a consortium, including Mastercard and Visa, is going to make credit cards with chips compulsory in the Latin America and the Caribbean markets in 2013.
"All local financial institutions will have to change out the existing cards and replace them with a chip card," said Smith. "It makes it much more difficult for an individual to clone a chip card. It should reduce significantly cloning and illegal use of credit cards."
Gordon Webster reckons that credit bureaus will also help in the fight against identity theft and credit fraud, but that may take a few years yet. However, companies can use transaction pattern analysis to tackle the problem now.
"The best case is American Express -- every time you swipe an American Express card they are looking at your transaction pattern, to see if this is consistent with your behaviour in the past," said Webster, who is director of performance improvement practice at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
He also believes that the national identification system (NIDS) will play a key role in verifying individuals' identities and giving them access to private sector services.
It may take another two years before the NIDS is implemented.
The proposed identifications aims to use biometric data, such as fingerprints, and other security features to make IDs unique to individuals.
The initial design and development of NIDS is funded by a technical co-operation grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through the Korean Poverty Reduction Fund in the amount of US$670,000 over 24 months, which commenced September 2011 with Government counterpart funding of US$120,000.