Thursday, February 21, 2013

HB 1649: How Pawnbrokers Identify Objects

Virginia House Bill 1649 looks unlikely to present any serious problems to honest pawnbrokers:

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HB1649ER

What's new is that pawnbrokers are required to keep "a digital image of the form of identification used by the person involved in the transaction." Does everyone out there have the equipment necessary to store a digital image of the client's driver's license? Is this more of a hardship than it appears to be?

UPDATE: This post became available last night in an incomplete form. Here's the rest of it.

For people who have made a habit of pawning their valuables, as it might be to pay winter heating bills, HB 1649 may present problems. Pawnbrokers do not have access to a separate computer network; they use the same Internet all the thieves and hackers are using to steal our identities and interfere with our lives. Pawnbrokers obviously have no motivation to steal the identities of the people who come in and poor-mouth about how desperately they need just $25 on a $2000 diamond ring. Pawnbrokers may care enough about some of their clients to hope these people aren't as destitute as they claim to be, but they make money when clients are more destitute than they thought and give the pawnbrokers the opportunity to sell that $2000 ring for $100. Your identity information would probably be safe with almost any pawnbroker...if it weren't stored in a place where thieves and hackers could get it. On the Internet even your full legal name isn't safe. (Why do you think a writer who retained her own family name while married would be using a screen name such as "Priscilla King"?)

So, if you have been relying on pawnshops for extra cash, here is your fair warning. Don't. The people who are interested in the identity of someone who's out of money are the people who either hate you personally and are willing to step outside the law to do you harm, or hate your country and are willing to impersonate you in order to commit acts of terrorism. The Virginia legislature has just voted to hand those people everything they need to know to do their dirty work...as long as the targets of their crimes are poor people.

This web site is glad that, in real life, pawnbrokers don't have to depend on books titled "How to Tell If a Person Is a Crook," like the poor chap in that Neil Owens cartoon some local lurkers may have seen on T-shirts. (Oh let's explain the inside joke: I used to sell Neil Owens cartoon T-shirts.) In real life, they keep the person's identity information, and any identifying information on the objects they display, in order to share that information with the police. This is as it should be; otherwise honest pawnbrokers would be constantly used as fences for stolen goods. But I'm not pleased with our legislators' caving in to the identity thieves and hackers. If any identity information for any U.S. citizen should ever appear on the Internet, it should be part of the penalty after said U.S. citizen has been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to more than ten years in prison.