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Identity Resolution Daily Links 2007-12-21

Friday, December 21st, 2007

We’re in the process of moving offices so we apologize that this week’s posts are a little light. We’ll also be taking a break for the holidays. Please look for our next post on January 2nd.

For today’s post, because of the holidays we thought we’d take a break from terrorism, insurance fraud, money laundering, organized retail crime, e-fencing, and all the other ‘cheery’ topics we often cover to bring you a kinder, gentler list of links.

Wishing you a safe and joyful holiday season,
The Infoglide Software Team

PR Newswire: Top Eight Holiday Dog Tips From ‘The Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan!

“During the busy holiday season, it is important to keep your dogs in mind. Here are Cesar’s Top Tips for a balanced dog all Winter long!”

CNNmoney.com: Last minute holiday shipping

“The deadline for getting your packages mailed out is fast approaching. Here’s your survival guide to holiday shipping so you can get that last-minute present to your in-laws.”

Yahoo News: Man reunites with birth mother at work

“Tallady, now 45, was surprised to get the call at Lowe’s and astonished to learn that the son she had given up for adoption 22 years earlier was a co-worker. ‘It was a shock,’ she said. ‘I started crying. I figured he would call me sometime, but not like this.’ Flaig said he is eager to meet her other two children, 12-year-old Alexandria and 10-year-old Brandon, his half-siblings. ‘I have a complete family now, all my kids,’ Tallady said. ‘It’s a perfect time of year. It’s the best Christmas present ever.’”

CNN.com: Taking the kids: Surviving the relatives this holiday season

“This column is dedicated to all of you getting ready to host your family and friends for the Christmas holiday. Good luck!”

The Boston Globe: Swag the dog

“When your high-end sales job hinges on pleasing an upscale clientele, the toadying holiday present poses a particular challenge: How do you make your sycophantic gift stand out from the other sycophantic gifts cluttering the doorsteps of the wealthy this time of year? You go through the dog. ‘I feel so smart,’ Suzy Frank, a vice president of sales at Marquis Jet, said as she assembled a $50 basket of treats and toys at Brookline’s Cause to Paws pet boutique on a recent Saturday. ‘I wish I had more clients with dogs. This is going to make me a star.’”

Real Simple: 50+ Holiday Recipes

“The best recipes of the season, from Cheese Crisps and Ginger-Aled Ham to Chocolate Bread Pudding and Sugarplums”

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2007-12-17

Monday, December 17th, 2007

TheStar.com: To catch a thief - Retailers are turning to cutting-edge technology to halt a bold new breed of shoplifter

“It’s a shoplifter’s dream out there. The malls are chaotic and stores are seriously understaffed – often manned with seasonal part-timers. Everywhere you look, merchandise is enticingly presented – out in the open to encourage a playful interaction between people and products. And while video surveillance cameras and security guards do their best to separate the shoppers from the lifters, profits are disappearing. . . . To wrap the whole experience up, now the Internet is providing a perfect outlet for e-fencing stolen merchandise. Certainly the shady pawnshops, sketchy flea markets and creepy guys wearing trench coats lined with wristwatches are working overtime – but moving the ‘merch’ online is profoundly more efficient. . . . Estwick says the problem of organized retail theft escalated here last year because the U.S. toughened its stance, mostly by involving the FBI. The hard-line approach drove the criminals north , she says.”

Law.com: Pa. Attorney Charged in Insurance Fraud Case

“Personal injury attorney H. Allen Litt, 58, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., has been charged along with 14 others in a scam involving falsifying personal injuries from made-up or exaggerated slip-and-fall and auto accident cases and submitting fraudulent insurance claims, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said. . . .The investigation into Litt and his alleged cohorts began with an October 2004 tip from an insurance fraud investigator with Chubb Insurance Co., Abraham said.”


Jeff Jonas: The Vegas Asymmetric Threat

“Beyond a new look, opportunists will claim false identities and carry false credentials. There is one particular subject I am familiar with that has used over 30 very different aliases and a handful for different social security numbers and dates of birth.”

pennlive.com: W.Va. man charged in fatal crash charged with insurance fraud

“A West Virginia man accused of killing five people and injuring seven others while driving drunk lied to PennDOT to get a driver’s license, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office said Thursday. Brian Stone, 33, of Morgantown, indicated on a 2003 Pennsylvania license application that he had never been arrested or cited for a violation that carries a penalty of license suspension or revocation, the attorney general said Thursday. . . . He was accused of registering a vehicle in Pennsylvania using a Fayette County post office box and of not having insurance. He was charged in Pennsylvania with tampering with public records and insurance fraud.”

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2007-12-14

Friday, December 14th, 2007

RIS: Holiday Fraudsters Get Savvier

“According to an NRF November survey, retailers lose $10.8 billion annually from return fraud alone. Eighty-three percent of fraudulent returns involve merchandise purchased with illegitimate credit cards. Many also involve counterfeit receipts, says LaRocca. Better printer technologies are giving criminals access to more type fonts. Some even sneak behind cash registers and into stock rooms to steal receipt tapes imprinted with store logos.”

Albany Herald: Darton College inaugurates homeland security program

“Things will take off slowly, but Darton College’s Jim Yates is confident that interest in the school’s new certificate in homeland security will eventually pick up.”

MyFox Austin: 7 On Your Side: E- Fencing

“‘Instead of just going to a pawn shop, which is local, they’re re-selling it on e-bay,’ AOL Consumer Advisor Regina Lewis said. ‘The whole world is their marketplace.’ Lewis said there’s not enough manpower to review all the millions of ads posted on the Internet each day. As a result, consumers wind up searching for their stolen goods themselves.”

iTnews: Privacy commissioner: Businesses be wary of new anti-money laundering laws

“Privacy commissioner Karen Curtis has urged businesses to consider the privacy of consumers when collecting personal information under the Anti-Money Laundering/ Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF), amendments which came into effect yesterday. Referred to as a ‘dirty money’ crack down by newly-appointed Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus, the AML/CTF Act requires businesses in the financial, bullion and gambling sectors such as banks, casinos and TABs to implement an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing program which will be upheld by the Australian transaction Reports Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).”

Image and Data Manager: Technology Cleans the Dirty Money

“New anti-money laundering rules have now come into effect this week, with a range of technologies presenting the key to assisting financial institutions meet stringent recordkeeping obligations. The new laws come as a results of the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Financing Act (AML/CTF) passed by the Australian Parliament in December 2006. As of December 12th 2007, organisations undertaking financial transactions – like banks, betting agencies and casinos – are required to comply with regulations and step up their identification and reporting procedures around transactions. . . . Paul Magee, CEO of VeCommerce says the role of technology in meeting these regulations and consequently assisting in combating money laundering is significant. ‘Most organisations find it relatively easy these days to establish an account or a customer profile for somebody,’ he says. . . . ‘I think it makes sense for organisations to be free to chose the best systems and processes that suit their requirements.’”

Knowledge Center: Jeff Stein - Loss Prevention: Wearing Multiple Hats

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

By Jeff Stein, LPI, president of Executive LP Services, LLC and owner/operator of MonitorClosely.com Franchise

Years ago, Loss Prevention (AKA the Security Department) had one major responsibility and that was to apprehend shoplifters and employees. You were reviewed based upon how many apprehensions you had. A secondary responsibility was to respond to alarms, mostly false alarms. In other words, the Security Department (better known today as Loss Prevention and Asset Protection) were known as Cops and Robbers. We were there to catch the bad guys. Today’s LP executives need to wear so many more hats than the cop role that we once did.

What hat to wear today? Loss Prevention, Store Detective, Security, Cop, Investigator, Human Resources, Data Analyst, Operations, Marketing, Finance, IT, Recruiter, Alarm Specialist, Camera Specialist, Trainer, Negotiator, and lets not leave out Interrogator. Being a subject matter expert (SME) in all of these areas is hard to do, but the more of an expert you are in each area, the better you and your department will be. It’s also helpful to surround yourself with great people who have expertise that complements your strong suits.

There are several tools, resources, and tricks of the trade that can help in several of these areas. For example, there are several great recruiters (Downing-Downing, Retail Placement Solutions, Jennings Executive Recruiting, LLC, etc.) out there and LP specific e-recruiting websites (www.lp-securityjobs.com) to help you with your recruiting needs. Industry publications like LossPrevention and LPinformation provide information on new techniques and best practices, and the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) offer research and training on a variety of key areas.

There are, of course, a bunch of alarm and camera companies that can automate your systems and provide you with state of the art equipment to make you look like a hero. There’s also very useful business intelligence software available, from exception reporting and returns management solutions to Infoglide Software’s proven identity resolution technology (AKA entity resolution and analysis technology), which increases the effectiveness of those solutions. Even Congress is stepping up to see how they might help with the problems of organized retail crime (ORC) and e-fencing, a brand new issue that didn’t even exist ten years ago.

As retail Loss Prevention continues to evolve, it’s important to always seek new information and innovations that can keep you one step ahead of the ‘Robbers.’

Rusty Hubcaps and Old Boots: A Fish Tale by John Ripley, Chief Software Architect - Part II

Monday, December 10th, 2007

[NOTE: We apologize that this is late in getting posted. We were having some technical problems that we just resolved.]

We left off Wednesday with Fisherman Bob and his catch of fish, lobsters, rusty hubcaps, and old boots.

Practically speaking, the balance of “false positives” (records I shouldn’t have found but did) and “false negatives” (records I should have found but didn’t) is something that challenges anyone in the business of information retrieval.

In the world of retail returns fraud, it is a question of potentially turning a loyal customer into a former customer. We either:

  • Deny their return because of a false positive hit against a “known shoplifters” database or
  • Let “Ima Theef” return a shoplifted item because the shoplifter database contained “Iama Thief” but the tightened matching policy is such that “Ima McLoyalCustomer” would not be denied.

In the retail world, I suspect the tendency is to lean toward avoiding false “positives” because after all, the customer is always right.

Contrast that with the world of background checks and employee vetting. The consequences of missing a hit against the sex offender registry because a newly hired school cafeteria worker misspelled his last name and changed his date of birth by 1 digit on his application are immeasurable. The parameters of this search would most likely err on the side of caution and consider multiple variations on name and date of birth.

In either case, the search problems are similar regardless of the tendency towards false positives or false negatives. Ultimately, whether searching with a wide net or a standard one, the results of the search should be qualified. There needs to be a way to remove the “old boot” from the record set before it gets to the consumers of the data. They should have confidence that records of relevance were returned to them. In principle it sounds like a simple expectation to fulfill, but in practical terms, it is not easy to achieve in a consistent, automated fashion. We hear it regularly from our customers in need of a better solution.

Infoglide Software to the RESQ! No, that is not a typo, it is my not-so-clever acronym to describe what Identity Resolution Engine(tm) (IRE) offers for the search challenges I have mentioned: Restrict/Expand, Search, and Qualify.

Restrict. No you can’t boil the ocean. Whether limited by processing power, memory, single search performance, bandwidth, data volume, or overall throughput, at some point you will unable to a do complete “deep-dive” search and still achieve the required performance characteristics. The system needs an intelligent means to logically subset the searchable data.

Expand. Using exact matches against indexed fields has been the bread and butter of the relational database market for the past 30 years. They are incredibly fast at doing it, but that is not enough. We need to find variations in the data. We need to find things that are “like” what we are looking for. We need to find things that are “near” what we are looking for. The system needs an intelligent means to expand our search net so that our candidate set more-than-likely contains our records of interest. The more “more-than-likely” the better. Obviously, returning every record on every search guarantees 100% recall, but the answer lies in between.

Search. Of course, we have to physically search at some point in our processing. That search may be a SQL query with all the search criteria restricted and expanded as appropriate, a high-performance-in memory database, or a web-service call to a data provider, to name a few. In any case, we end up with a result set of records that, in some shape or form, more than likely contain the records we are looking for.

Qualify. The records in our candidate set have been included because they have, for better or worse, met one or more of the restrictive or expanded parameters in our search. However, as a whole, the record may be discarded because of other attributes, contradictory information, or some other reason to disqualify the record.

As a practical (yet trivial) example, one of my restriction/expansion strategies may have been to do a “starts with” when searching for “John Ripley.” That would yield a search that might be: find me all records where first name starts with ‘Jo’ and last name starts with ‘Rip.’ In this simple example, I have avoided boiling the ocean and only asked to return records that are like Jo___ and Rip___. In my record set I have Joe Riplinski, Jon Ripley, Jolene Ripple, Joseph Ripcord, Johnathan Smith (Riptide California), John Ripley, Rip Johnson, and Cal Joe. Ripken.

Effectively, most of the records are “old boots” and “rusty hubcaps.” The system needs an intelligent means to separate the quality matches from the junk. IRE’s patented “Similarity Search,” with its large library of configurable measures, both generic and domain-specific, can be applied across one or more attributes, qualify the degree of similarity of a potential record, and either include or exclude it from the final record set based on configuration-time or search-time business logic. In this example, John Ripley would qualify 1st, with Jon Ripley coming in 2nd and so on. At some point the scores would be low enough to discard the record completely.

IRE has many configurable techniques to handle the “intelligent” part of restrict and expand such as nicknames, field transpositions, word stemming, ranges, and geographic proximity just to name a few.

The example above uses two fields (first and last name). With only that little amount of information, how we qualify the record (with respect to the search criteria) is limited because we only have name information. Imagine if we also had address and date of birth information. We could make more informed decisions . . . perhaps house-holding logic, familial relationship information (parent and children in the same house), and neighbors. But like the HDTV search discussed on Wednesday, we have been trained by ineffective search strategies to limit the types of things we ask for. We went from searching brand, model number, type of electronics, and feature keywords “Samsung LX-53567 TV HD 1080p” down to brand and type (”Samsung TV”). With the techniques of restrict, expand, search, and qualify, our initial search would not have yielded 0 results but instead “Samsung LX-53576 TV HD 1080i” and “Samsung VX-3345 TV HD 1080i” and so on, ranked by strength of match.

The power of the RESQ search pattern lies not only in the ability to configure each phase of the process with a variety of restrictors, expanders, and qualifiers, but in your ability to actually replace them with a completely different implementation to meet a particular customer and data need. Meanwhile, the pattern remains the same: Flexible yet powerful.

Rusty Hubcaps and Old Boots: A Fish Tale by John Ripley, Chief Software Architect

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

In thinking about the technical challenge of searching data, I think it’s helpful to start with a very non-technical analogy. Consider the case of Fisherman Bob. He is looking for fish in a vast ocean. With the technology of the day, he has two options.

1) Use his standard fishing net, cast it into the water and haul in whatever it catches. Fisherman Bob, having done this for 25 years, is pretty skillful at his craft. He knows where to throw the net, what depth to leave it, and what fish he is likely to catch. Sure enough after two hours of trolling, he hauls in a good size catch. It is primarily cod, and the odd squid and haddock. He can pretty much dump the whole lot into the holding tanks and start his next cast.

2) Try a wider net. It holds the opportunity of bringing in a much bigger catch. It is a little harder to cast due to its size. It also trolls at a wider depth and can catch fish at the surface as well as the bottom of the ocean. After a few hours, Fisherman Bob pulls up the net and is eager to see what he has caught. He has once again caught some cod and more of it. However as Fisherman Bob is about to dump his catch into the holding tanks he notices something red in the net. He has caught a lobster in his net this time . . . and not only one . . . but 57 of them. Well, they may not be fish, but they are seafood. Close enough I suppose. His customers on shore surely won’t mind getting the odd lobster in their delivery of fish, will they? He opens up the net and, as his catch falls into the tanks, Fisherman Bob notices much more than fish and lobster. To his dismay, in addition to what he was looking for, Fisherman Bob has pulled up four bags of trash, 22 rusty hubcaps, and seven old boots. Fisherman Bob’s customers would be pretty upset to find an old boot in their daily delivery of fish. So much so that they would likely question Fisherman Bob’s ability to reliably and consistently deliver fish. To keep his customers satisfied, Fisherman Bob now has to go down in the tanks, amongst the flopping fish and snapping lobsters, and discard the trash, hubcaps, and boots. Any efficiency gained with a wider net has been lost in the manual separation of good from bad and also potential loss of customer confidence.

In terms of search technology, we have all been in Fisherman Bob’s predicament. If you run a search on your favorite electronics e-tailer site and search for “Samsung LX-53567 TV HD 1080p” and get 0 matches. Ooops, forgot the TV was 1080i. Try the search again “Samsung LX-53567 HD”. Still 0 hits. What the . . . ahh the heck with it . . . just search “Samsung TV”. 220 hits! And your TV is on page 14 of 22.

How then can we solve the diametric problems of “exact search” with its indexed high-performance search characteristics but inherent risk of missing records with minor (or major) variances (false negatives or Type II error) vs. “cast a wide net” search with “fuzzy match” techniques and its inherent risk of bringing back non-relevant records (false positives or Type I error)?

Please come back on Friday when I’ll net an answer for you.

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2007-12-3

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

The Arizona Republic: Organized shoplifting grows into big business

“‘Fast-food fencing,’ or selling stolen goods through online auction houses like Craigslist or eBay, has made selling stolen goods much easier, Helmick said. Pawnshops report what merchandise they purchase to police, and some second-hand stores have regulations. But online auction houses, because of consumer-privacy laws, allow sellers to remain anonymous, to use false names and addresses, and thus to avoid detection.”

WCFcourier.com: Cedar Rapids man indicted on mail fraud charges

“A man who authorities say collected insurance payments on false claims and withheld renters’ damage deposits by falsely claiming damage to apartments has been indicted on 19 counts of mail fraud.”

The Courier-Journal: Magazine roundup

“Banking-secrecy laws are far more likely to ensnare innocent people than catch terrorists as they were supposed to do, according to Ibrahim A. Warde, who teaches international business at Tufts University. . . . Warde says that by law, banks in the United States must notify the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, part of the Treasury Department, of any cash transaction exceeding $10,000 or any transaction that seems inconsistent with the way a client normally does business. They do so by filing a suspicious activity report. ‘It is estimated that more than 1 million SARs are now filed every year in the United States at an annual cost of $8 billion to banks,’ Warde wrote. ‘Most of the reports go … unprocessed. Furthermore, there is no evidence that a single act of terror was foiled through information disclosed in those reports.’”


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