Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 28, 2005


Host: Cary Pfeffer

Arizona Stories: Lowell Observatory


  • The story of a hilltop in Flagstaff and the contributions the Lowell Observatory has made to science.
Guests:
  • Patricia Armstrong - U.S. postal inspector
  • Tom Liffiton - FBI Investigator


View Transcript
>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tonight on "Horizon" we begin a series looking at the problem of identity theft. Some thieves will do anything to get into your mailbox. And the story of a hilltop in Flagstaff and the contributions the Lowell observatory has made to science.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Good evening. I'm Cary Pfeffer in for Michael Grant. United States senators are now more vulnerable to identity theft. Late last week Bank of America announced it had lost computer tapes, those tapes contain account details, including Social Security numbers, of more than a million federal employees. More than 60 U.S. senators are affected. The secret service is said to be investigating the loss. This is just the latest incident that underscores the pervasiveness and potential danger of identity theft. Tonight we begin a three-part look at the problem in subsequent shows we'll talk about legislation and what you can do to protect yourself. But first, we'll show you the extent of the problem.

>> Jason Davis:
The reality is everyone is susceptible to this and when you're victimized by it, it affects your life because it affects your credit score, it affects the way you buy things, it affects your ability to buy things and to live your life the way you do now. You can't just ignore it if somebody else is using your identity.

>> Larry Lemmons:
You're watching a crime in progress. This thief has been caught on tape trying to break into these mail boxes. It shows even with some precautions in place, some criminals will make an extra effort to steal from you. Mail theft is a precursor to identity theft. Arizona has become the number one state for identity theft. Why?

>> Paul Charlton:
The unfortunate reality is that Arizona has a terrific methamphetamine problem, and what that means is that methamphetamine addicts need to support their habit by breaking into mail boxes and attempting to make money by stealing money. It's the methamphetamine problem that's driving Arizona to be number one in identity theft.

>> Brad Astrowski:
They have no problem, dumpster diving, do all sorts of things. They're up all night anyway because they're addicted to meth. And what meth does, again, keeps them up all night and will allow them to painstakingly go through the process of collecting or harvest your data.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Recently a local woman convicted of I.D. theft appeared on "Horizon" to tell us how she did it. She wanted her identity to remain hidden.

>>Anonymous woman:
I had several people who would go out and steal mail, and they would bring it back for some sort of -- form of payment, whether it was drugs or money. I would go through the mail and look for credit card statements, bank statements, sometimes you would even get the credit card itself, appeared I would use those to make purchases on the internet or in person at electronics stores, use the credit cards to get cash back or take out cash.

>> Jason Davis:
My personal experience over the last year going to search warrants where we actually are arresting the perpetrator, we see a lot of stolen mail and we see a lot of dumpster diving proceeds, and by that I mean you might find all of the garbage thrown out from, say, a doctor's office or all of the garbage thrown out by a sporting goods store and maybe they have the carbon copies from all the hunting and fishing licenses they have sold over the last year.

>>Larry Lemmons :
This is evidence seized by postal inspectors. Many people don't realize their I.D.s have been stolen until damage has been done.

>> Brad Astrowski
They're shocked because they're not immediately notified. Most of the time when like a checking account is opened or a line of credit is opened, they don't know about it until it goes to collections and a collection agency notifies them because these people are diverting the items to a different address, not their address. So it's getting run down through the collections agencies through the name, Social Security numbers, other identifiers and that's how they're finding out about it.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Not all I.D. thieves are meth users. Some are meticulous and well organized.

>> Terry Goddard:
We recently did an investigation and prosecution of a couple who was doing identity theft and they were a business. They had set up the looseleaf notebooks on each of their victims and the information was incredibly complete and they got it from a variety of sources. They got it from the dumpsters. They got it from going through information checks on computer. And then they would pose as that person and then they would try to open credit accounts and they were very clear, these people were meticulous, they could have been accountants, because they kept exact records as to what passwords they'd used, exactly when they talked to anybody who, representative of the credit company and how they done it.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Identity thieves don't even have to be of the same sex of the ID. they're stealing.

>> Anonymous woman:
You can always say this person is your husband, you have permission to use the card. Once you sign for it, it's done. People who work in stores are, A., either gullible or, B., don't care. As long as they get their commission for it, it doesn't matter. You can pretty much tell them whatever you want.

>> Larry Lemmons:
According to the recent javelin strategy & research survey an update of the federal trade commission identity fraud report, most cases involve lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards. That's followed by identities being stolen during a transaction. By friend and relatives. Corrupt employees. And then by stolen mail. Computer software comes after that. Information taken from trash. Computer viruses. And finally by what's called phishing or e-mail posing as legitimate business. If you have e-mail you've probably seen these from Washington mutual security or pay pal. These are attempts to get identity information from you.

>>Andrew Thomas:
Thieves send out spam e-mail that impersonates a bank or other financial or other institutions and asks for financial information, including Social Security numbers from the recipients of the e-mail, and sometimes people are led to give that information and a viewer should know they should not do that if they don't recognize the person sending the information.

>>Larry Lemmons:
This advice can also apply to personal data gathering business. Choicepoint sells background files on adult Americans. The company was defrauded by I.D. thieves posing as legitimate business. As many as 145,000 identities around the country may have been compromised.

>> Terry Goddard:
Choice-point unfortunately had a major invasion of their information and they started telling consumers in California because they had protective legislation such as I think we should have in Arizona, but they weren't telling anybody else. We've just written a smoking letter from AG's across the letter basically say you have a moral if not a legal obligation to let everybody know this has happened so they can protect themselves.

>>Larry Lemmons:
As I.D. thieves use ever more sophisticated means to stay ahead of law enforcement they have moved into the wireless arena using a laptop, hackers can steal information out of thin air if sent via wireless communication.

>>Terry Goddard:
Many cases people inadvertently open up their system to any hacker that's within half a mile by using some of the wireless technology.

>> Larry Lemmons:
I.D. theft has come a long way from simply breaking into a mailbox but the effect on a victim is just as devastating that the long process to clear a good name can be exhausting.

>> Paul Charlton:
It's a large problem, one of the fastest growing crimes and it's a crime that affects people in a personal way, in a way that other crimes may not. In fact, I would say that apart from crimes of violence, it's one of the most serious crimes that an individual can personally be affected by.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Joining us now to elaborate on the problem of identity theft, U.S. postal inspector Patricia Armstrong and from the FBI Tom Liffiton. Thank you both for being here. Patricia, let's start with you because this is probably an area that people can readily relate to. Everybody deals with the mail in one way or another, and you're on the receiving end of some of those phone calls and can see the picture pretty clearly. Talk about, first of all, how big of a problem it is from your perspective.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
Well, historically here in Arizona there has been a significant mail theft problem, and like you said, everyone in the United States receives mail. We all receive mail, so when it happens through the U.S. mails, it's very personal to us because we all can relate. Mail theft here has been probably tied probably I would say 90\% to methamphetamine use in almost 90\% of the cases that we see. Methamphetamine use is a part of the reason why they're stealing mail.

>>Cary Pfeffer:
We heard Paul Charlton make reference to that. We also saw sort of a division of where these identity thieves get their information. It's not always that, but certainly breaking into those group mailbox or individual mailbox, people need to be aware that that's part of what you're seeing, correct?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
That's correct. Those group mail boxes seem to have been a target for people wanting to get your identity through the mail, stolen mail.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tom, talk about sort of the high-tech side of this, that ends up falling into your area of focus, that seems to be the growth part of the industry, if you want to call it.

>> Tom Liffiton:
It's growth because our neighborhood, so to speak, is the world instead of just a small geographical area. People over the internet can come into your computer, can send you e-mail messages that if you tap on those, click on those, takes you to another place, you fill in information that you really shouldn't be filling in --

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Credit card numbers?

>> Tom Liffiton:
Or it can deposit a Trojan horse a program that will get that information later from you.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Given the fact that that whole electronic side of the equation is growing, how serious is it for someone who becomes that victim? In other words, trying to untangle this mess that's occurred, talk a little bit about that.

>> Tom Liffiton:
Well, it's serious because you're going to have to go to credit bureaus and you're going to have to do a lot of work to repair what has happened. And you could lose a significant amount of money.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
And for the postal service, this is a situation that certainly is not new in some ways in that people have been trying to get money or steal thing out of people's mailbox for a while, but just the scope of it, I would assume, is on the rise, is that accurate?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
The scope of what is available through the mail is on the rise in that not necessarily that people are stealing more are, because actually our mail thefts are down from 2001, we had 2600 mail thefts for that year, and last year we had 550. So mail thefts are going down. But what the people are doing with the information is changing. They're building complete profiles on victims, not just a piece of information here and then they move onto the next. They actually collect data on the victim.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tom, that's also part of the dilemma here, is that the scope of what can happen, because of the computers and the electronics that are accessible, makes it grow or makes it that much bigger of a problem?

>> Tom Liffiton:
One of the problems recently has been something called phishing, and that in the statistics of growth of that is up about 40 percent in just a month, and over a period of six months, over 50 percent. So it's a considerable problem.

>> Carl Pfeffer: And also we made mention of that in the story that you just saw. The role that businesses play here, that's an important part of the equation as far as trying to address what's happening, correct?

>> Tom Liffiton :It's correct. It needs to be worked out a little bit in the court but there's responsibility on both sides, a responsibility of the business to protect the information that they've been given, but also the responsibility of the users, the customers, to know what they need to do to protect information.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Patricia, is there a person who is more likely to be a victim in this situation? We know meth users and that side, they're the likely criminals. Who is likely to be a victim.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
According to the federal trade commission there was a report recently released that says 18 to 39-year-olds make up over 50\% of the mail -- not necessarily mail theft, but identity theft complaints out there.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
So young persons who are sort of just getting their start can end up really running into a roadblock there.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
Yes, think about what you're doing at that time in your life, you're just starting your careers, you're in college, starting a family, buy homes, cars.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
All those things where you're out there and active in the community?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
That's correct.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Patricia Armstrong, Tom Liffiton, thanks very much for being here and good words of warning, that's for sure.

>> Tom Liffiton:
Thank you.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
If you want to know more about identity theft and what the series will be covering go to www.azpbs.org, click the companion site, and this is what you'll see. You can find links, advice on how to avoid becoming a victim, what you should do if you are one, and other pertinent information.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Every Monday on "Horizon," we feature a new Arizona story, stories that highlight people and places and qualities that are unique to the Grand Canyon state. It was 75 years ago this month that the planet Pluto was discovered. Pluto was spotted first by Clyde Tombaugh from the Lowell observatory at Flagstaff. As Larry Lemmons tells us, it was just one of the many significant discoveries made at the Lowell observatory.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A view of Flagstaff from the top of Mars Hill. Looking at objects from a distance has made this spot significant in the history of Arizona and astronomy. The Lowell Observatory remains a vital part of humanity's desire to understand the stars. Current research and outreach projects keep the observatory relevant but it was the obsession of one man more than 100 years ago that eventually led to some of the greatest astronomical discoveries in history. Lowell is interred in this mausoleum. He was an amateur astronomer from a wealthy background whose desire to find evidence of life on Mars brought him to Flagstaff.

>> Kevin Schindler:
In the 1890s there's some interesting observations of Mars that were going to be coming up and Lowell Got excited because he wanted to see Mars and perhaps find of evidence of intelligent life. So he set up an observatory in Arizona, which wasn't a state, just a territory of Arizona and Flagstaff that had about 800 people, no electricity and was just a western outpost.

>> Larry Lemmons:: An outpost with the clear view of the stars. Lowell spent 15 years studying Mars with a 24-inch refractor telescope that is still housed in the original dome at the observatory. Lowell made drawings of the red planet and was first to suggest that canals were constructed on Mars. But it was his search for the so-called Planet X which yielded greater success. Lowell believed a 9th planet existed beyond Neptune. After his death, Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what Lowell suspected.

>> Kevin Schindler:
On February 18th, 1930, he was looking at -- comparing two different photographic plates taken of the same area of the sky and there was an area of the sky that Lowell predicted this new object would be and about 4:00 in the afternoon February 18th, Clyde Tombaugh's sitting at the blink comparator machine and there it was. That's how Pluto was discovered.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Even that's not the extent of the Lowell Observatory's legacy in astronomy. Another Lowell astronomer would make history.

>> Robert Millis:
Probably one of the most important discoveries in the 20th century was made right here with this telescope by an astronomer named Vesto Slipher. Using this telescope he was able to obtain the first spectra of what turned out to be external galaxies.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Spectra in 1913 show the galaxies to be moving away from the observer as indicated by a red shift in the absorption lines of their spectra.

>> Robert Millis:
What Slipher discovered was most of the objects were moving away from earth at speeds far beyond anything than had been seen by astronomers before. In fact, what he had found was the first evidence of the expansion of the universe, and his work inspired other astronomers such as Edwin Hubble, to pursue this type of investigation and ultimately prove that the universe is expanding.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Research at the Lowell Observatory is expanding as well. Lowell is involved in the investigation of near earth asteroids and collaborating with astronomers.

>>Bruce Koehn: We can find these fast-moving asteroids and we can send their position to the minor planet center, the minor planet center positions an approximate position and amateurs can pick them up and get further positions. The more positions you have, the better the orbit becomes. That frees this telescope to continue searching.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The fact that Lowell researchers essentially own their instruments means they can engage in long-term monitoring programs. This is a unique strength of Lowell's research.

>> Jeffrey Hall:
We can go out to our instruments day after day, week after week, and perform ongoing observations. This is not something you can do at national observatories like Kit Peak where the observing time is awarded through a competitive peer review process and even if your proposal is one of the one in four or one in five that is successful, you might be awarded two weeks of time over six months. Now, you can do fine science with that kind of a method, but there are limits to what you can do.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Appropriately, it's the nature of how Lowell was founded, the passion of its founder, that now gives the observatory its particular strength.

>> Jeffrey Hall:
This is something that goes all the way back to Percival Lowell in the late 1800's using the Clark telescope night after night making his exhaustive sketches of Mars. It goes to the Pluto search where Lowell postulated the existence of a 9th planet and it was discovered after a long and exhaustive search.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Created at a time when Arizona's documented history was young the Lowell Observatory has contributed to that history in a profound way and continues to make an impact on tomorrow's scientists.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Earlier Michael Grant spoke with Jeffrey Hall, associate director for education and development at Lowell.

>> Michael Grant:
Jeff, after Clyde Tombaugh died there's this controversy about whether is Pluto really a planet. Is it a planet?

>> Jeffrey Hall:
According to definition that our Pluto expert at Lowell uses, it is, and it's not -- we don't view it as a macho thing, as being demoted if it's not a planet. We view a planet as an object that is smaller than a star, meaning it doesn't shine in the way a star does, yet large enough so it's more or less spherical as a result of its own gravity, like the earth is, and if you pick up a rock in the desert it's not a sphere because it's not big enough to mold itself into that shape. By that definition Pluto is a planet.

>> Michael Grant:
What alternatively could it -- I remember the controversy but not the details.

>> Jeffery Hall:
Well because -- Lowell envisioned the existence of a Planet X in the outer solar system, potentially a very large planet, and we haven't found any large planets beyond Neptune. Pluto is quite small. What we have found are a large number of very small objects called Kuyper Belt object names named for an astronomer who proposed it. They're strong, dark, hard to observe, almost asteroid like in that sense. So the question became, is Pluto perhaps a large example of a Kuyper Belt object or something else? In the larger sense, what we really stand to gain from Pluto is a more complete understanding of what the outer solar system is like, what objects way out there in the dark far reaches of our solar system are like. We might get clues as to the early history of the solar system, because objects formed in a very different environment than earth and the planets closer to the sun, and arguing about what to call Pluto really distracts a lot of attention from the real science in what we can really learn.

>> Michael Grant:
There's a mission on its way to Pluto, correct?

>> Jeffery Hall;
Will be, if all goes according to plan, the New Horizons Mission will be launched next January 2006 with a scheduled alive to Pluto in 2015 and we have two astronomers at Lowell Observatory directly involved with that mission, which is quite appropriate given our long heritage in the outer solar system.

>> Michael Grant:
Amazing. Gives you some idea of the distances involved because I was doing fast math there, we're talking nine years to get there?

>> Jeffery Hall:
And that's really fast. You launch a large heavy spacecraft like Cassini or one of these heavier ones it could take several decades. The new horizons mission is a small fast intentionally light spacecraft. It will get a boost as it goes by Jupiter which is a pretty standard thing. You use the gravity of a massive planet to slingshot you

>> Michael Grant:
I'm a big "Star Trek" fan.

>>Jeffery Hall:
If you put the sun there, Jupiter there, the system spreads way out.

>> Michael Grant:
What will it be equipped to do and you mentioned Lowell was playing a role in it --

>> Jeffery Hall:
We have experts in the outer solar system who will be directly involved with the observations of Pluto itself. One of the added benefits of the new horizons spacecraft after it flies by Pluto, they will then fly onto a Kiper Belt object and have a closer look. We can only observe these as little dots on the sky. Even Pluto is pretty much that way. To actually get a close-up look at these objects will revolutionize our view of these little worlds. One of our astronomers is currently at work identifying a promising Kiper Belt object to send new horizons onto after it goes by Pluto.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the other things there has been has been a lot of discussion about and movies, is the perilous state of earth and you get a huge asteroid and you just kind of kiss --

>> Jeffery Hall: Which invariably lands right in the metro district of a large city. That's Hollywood license although it makes for good special effects. Another group at Lowell scans the sky continuously for near-earth asteroids. They are one of several programs per foaming this ongoing search trying tide asteroids that might potentially pass near earth's orbit, determine their orbit and the probability that they would impact earth. This is done in essentially the same way that Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto. It's very much in Lowell's observing heritage. This team takes an image of the sky and then they go back a little later, take another image of the sky. Except instead of looking manually at photographic glass plates like Clyde had to do, they have computer algorithms that go lickety-split through a vast quantity of date you are, much faster an human.

>> Michael Grant:
It was much more mechanical in Clyde's time. You were telling me actually the device --

>> Jeffery Hall:
We have a device on display at Lowell Observatory and some 70,000 visitors get to see it. It's called a blank comparator, you mound two plates and there is a flip mirror that flips your point of view back and forth from one plate to the other as you look through the finder. The stars are actually moving through space but they are so far away they don't appear to. It's like driving on along the road and trees on a on a distant hillside don't appear to move but the road signs go cruising by you because they're so much closer. Pluto kind of did the same thing against a starry background and so what Clyde was able to see amongst thousands of little dots on this plate was Pluto.

>> Michael Grant:
Dr. Hall, terrific! It's good to get the additional information on Lowell and I know you're having celebrations up there even as we speak and wish you the best of luck with them.

>>Jeffery Hall:
Thanks.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
The next Arizona story will be a month from now, March 28th. We will be traveling to Wickenburg to tell you the story of a little red schoolhouse that has played a special part in the heart of the town.

>>Announcer:
Tuesday on "Horizon," we'll look at the laws that exist to protect you from identity theft and reveal some of the problems that make enforcement of these laws so difficult. Join us for Part 2 of a three-part special, identity theft, Tuesday at 7 on Channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Cary Pfeffer. Michael Grant will be back tomorrow night. Have a great night.

Identity Theft


  • "Horizon" begins a series looking at the problem of identity theft. How some thieves will do anything to get into your mailbox.
Guests:
  • Patricia Armstrong - U.S. postal inspector
  • Tom Liffiton - FBI Investigator


View Transcript
>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tonight on "Horizon" we begin a series looking at the problem of identity theft. Some thieves will do anything to get into your mailbox. And the story of a hilltop in Flagstaff and the contributions the Lowell observatory has made to science.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Good evening. I'm Cary Pfeffer in for Michael Grant. United States senators are now more vulnerable to identity theft. Late last week Bank of America announced it had lost computer tapes, those tapes contain account details, including Social Security numbers, of more than a million federal employees. More than 60 U.S. senators are affected. The secret service is said to be investigating the loss. This is just the latest incident that underscores the pervasiveness and potential danger of identity theft. Tonight we begin a three-part look at the problem in subsequent shows we'll talk about legislation and what you can do to protect yourself. But first, we'll show you the extent of the problem.

>> Jason Davis:
The reality is everyone is susceptible to this and when you're victimized by it, it affects your life because it affects your credit score, it affects the way you buy things, it affects your ability to buy things and to live your life the way you do now. You can't just ignore it if somebody else is using your identity.

>> Larry Lemmons:
You're watching a crime in progress. This thief has been caught on tape trying to break into these mail boxes. It shows even with some precautions in place, some criminals will make an extra effort to steal from you. Mail theft is a precursor to identity theft. Arizona has become the number one state for identity theft. Why?

>> Paul Charlton:
The unfortunate reality is that Arizona has a terrific methamphetamine problem, and what that means is that methamphetamine addicts need to support their habit by breaking into mail boxes and attempting to make money by stealing money. It's the methamphetamine problem that's driving Arizona to be number one in identity theft.

>> Brad Astrowski:
They have no problem, dumpster diving, do all sorts of things. They're up all night anyway because they're addicted to meth. And what meth does, again, keeps them up all night and will allow them to painstakingly go through the process of collecting or harvest your data.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Recently a local woman convicted of I.D. theft appeared on "Horizon" to tell us how she did it. She wanted her identity to remain hidden.

>>Anonymous woman:
I had several people who would go out and steal mail, and they would bring it back for some sort of -- form of payment, whether it was drugs or money. I would go through the mail and look for credit card statements, bank statements, sometimes you would even get the credit card itself, appeared I would use those to make purchases on the internet or in person at electronics stores, use the credit cards to get cash back or take out cash.

>> Jason Davis:
My personal experience over the last year going to search warrants where we actually are arresting the perpetrator, we see a lot of stolen mail and we see a lot of dumpster diving proceeds, and by that I mean you might find all of the garbage thrown out from, say, a doctor's office or all of the garbage thrown out by a sporting goods store and maybe they have the carbon copies from all the hunting and fishing licenses they have sold over the last year.

>>Larry Lemmons :
This is evidence seized by postal inspectors. Many people don't realize their I.D.s have been stolen until damage has been done.

>> Brad Astrowski
They're shocked because they're not immediately notified. Most of the time when like a checking account is opened or a line of credit is opened, they don't know about it until it goes to collections and a collection agency notifies them because these people are diverting the items to a different address, not their address. So it's getting run down through the collections agencies through the name, Social Security numbers, other identifiers and that's how they're finding out about it.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Not all I.D. thieves are meth users. Some are meticulous and well organized.

>> Terry Goddard:
We recently did an investigation and prosecution of a couple who was doing identity theft and they were a business. They had set up the looseleaf notebooks on each of their victims and the information was incredibly complete and they got it from a variety of sources. They got it from the dumpsters. They got it from going through information checks on computer. And then they would pose as that person and then they would try to open credit accounts and they were very clear, these people were meticulous, they could have been accountants, because they kept exact records as to what passwords they'd used, exactly when they talked to anybody who, representative of the credit company and how they done it.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Identity thieves don't even have to be of the same sex of the ID. they're stealing.

>> Anonymous woman:
You can always say this person is your husband, you have permission to use the card. Once you sign for it, it's done. People who work in stores are, A., either gullible or, B., don't care. As long as they get their commission for it, it doesn't matter. You can pretty much tell them whatever you want.

>> Larry Lemmons:
According to the recent javelin strategy & research survey an update of the federal trade commission identity fraud report, most cases involve lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards. That's followed by identities being stolen during a transaction. By friend and relatives. Corrupt employees. And then by stolen mail. Computer software comes after that. Information taken from trash. Computer viruses. And finally by what's called phishing or e-mail posing as legitimate business. If you have e-mail you've probably seen these from Washington mutual security or pay pal. These are attempts to get identity information from you.

>>Andrew Thomas:
Thieves send out spam e-mail that impersonates a bank or other financial or other institutions and asks for financial information, including Social Security numbers from the recipients of the e-mail, and sometimes people are led to give that information and a viewer should know they should not do that if they don't recognize the person sending the information.

>>Larry Lemmons:
This advice can also apply to personal data gathering business. Choicepoint sells background files on adult Americans. The company was defrauded by I.D. thieves posing as legitimate business. As many as 145,000 identities around the country may have been compromised.

>> Terry Goddard:
Choice-point unfortunately had a major invasion of their information and they started telling consumers in California because they had protective legislation such as I think we should have in Arizona, but they weren't telling anybody else. We've just written a smoking letter from AG's across the letter basically say you have a moral if not a legal obligation to let everybody know this has happened so they can protect themselves.

>>Larry Lemmons:
As I.D. thieves use ever more sophisticated means to stay ahead of law enforcement they have moved into the wireless arena using a laptop, hackers can steal information out of thin air if sent via wireless communication.

>>Terry Goddard:
Many cases people inadvertently open up their system to any hacker that's within half a mile by using some of the wireless technology.

>> Larry Lemmons:
I.D. theft has come a long way from simply breaking into a mailbox but the effect on a victim is just as devastating that the long process to clear a good name can be exhausting.

>> Paul Charlton:
It's a large problem, one of the fastest growing crimes and it's a crime that affects people in a personal way, in a way that other crimes may not. In fact, I would say that apart from crimes of violence, it's one of the most serious crimes that an individual can personally be affected by.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Joining us now to elaborate on the problem of identity theft, U.S. postal inspector Patricia Armstrong and from the FBI Tom Liffiton. Thank you both for being here. Patricia, let's start with you because this is probably an area that people can readily relate to. Everybody deals with the mail in one way or another, and you're on the receiving end of some of those phone calls and can see the picture pretty clearly. Talk about, first of all, how big of a problem it is from your perspective.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
Well, historically here in Arizona there has been a significant mail theft problem, and like you said, everyone in the United States receives mail. We all receive mail, so when it happens through the U.S. mails, it's very personal to us because we all can relate. Mail theft here has been probably tied probably I would say 90\% to methamphetamine use in almost 90\% of the cases that we see. Methamphetamine use is a part of the reason why they're stealing mail.

>>Cary Pfeffer:
We heard Paul Charlton make reference to that. We also saw sort of a division of where these identity thieves get their information. It's not always that, but certainly breaking into those group mailbox or individual mailbox, people need to be aware that that's part of what you're seeing, correct?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
That's correct. Those group mail boxes seem to have been a target for people wanting to get your identity through the mail, stolen mail.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tom, talk about sort of the high-tech side of this, that ends up falling into your area of focus, that seems to be the growth part of the industry, if you want to call it.

>> Tom Liffiton:
It's growth because our neighborhood, so to speak, is the world instead of just a small geographical area. People over the internet can come into your computer, can send you e-mail messages that if you tap on those, click on those, takes you to another place, you fill in information that you really shouldn't be filling in --

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Credit card numbers?

>> Tom Liffiton:
Or it can deposit a Trojan horse a program that will get that information later from you.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Given the fact that that whole electronic side of the equation is growing, how serious is it for someone who becomes that victim? In other words, trying to untangle this mess that's occurred, talk a little bit about that.

>> Tom Liffiton:
Well, it's serious because you're going to have to go to credit bureaus and you're going to have to do a lot of work to repair what has happened. And you could lose a significant amount of money.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
And for the postal service, this is a situation that certainly is not new in some ways in that people have been trying to get money or steal thing out of people's mailbox for a while, but just the scope of it, I would assume, is on the rise, is that accurate?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
The scope of what is available through the mail is on the rise in that not necessarily that people are stealing more are, because actually our mail thefts are down from 2001, we had 2600 mail thefts for that year, and last year we had 550. So mail thefts are going down. But what the people are doing with the information is changing. They're building complete profiles on victims, not just a piece of information here and then they move onto the next. They actually collect data on the victim.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Tom, that's also part of the dilemma here, is that the scope of what can happen, because of the computers and the electronics that are accessible, makes it grow or makes it that much bigger of a problem?

>> Tom Liffiton:
One of the problems recently has been something called phishing, and that in the statistics of growth of that is up about 40 percent in just a month, and over a period of six months, over 50 percent. So it's a considerable problem.

>> Carl Pfeffer: And also we made mention of that in the story that you just saw. The role that businesses play here, that's an important part of the equation as far as trying to address what's happening, correct?

>> Tom Liffiton :It's correct. It needs to be worked out a little bit in the court but there's responsibility on both sides, a responsibility of the business to protect the information that they've been given, but also the responsibility of the users, the customers, to know what they need to do to protect information.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Patricia, is there a person who is more likely to be a victim in this situation? We know meth users and that side, they're the likely criminals. Who is likely to be a victim.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
According to the federal trade commission there was a report recently released that says 18 to 39-year-olds make up over 50\% of the mail -- not necessarily mail theft, but identity theft complaints out there.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
So young persons who are sort of just getting their start can end up really running into a roadblock there.

>> Patricia Armstrong:
Yes, think about what you're doing at that time in your life, you're just starting your careers, you're in college, starting a family, buy homes, cars.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
All those things where you're out there and active in the community?

>> Patricia Armstrong:
That's correct.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Patricia Armstrong, Tom Liffiton, thanks very much for being here and good words of warning, that's for sure.

>> Tom Liffiton:
Thank you.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
If you want to know more about identity theft and what the series will be covering go to www.azpbs.org, click the companion site, and this is what you'll see. You can find links, advice on how to avoid becoming a victim, what you should do if you are one, and other pertinent information.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Every Monday on "Horizon," we feature a new Arizona story, stories that highlight people and places and qualities that are unique to the Grand Canyon state. It was 75 years ago this month that the planet Pluto was discovered. Pluto was spotted first by Clyde Tombaugh from the Lowell observatory at Flagstaff. As Larry Lemmons tells us, it was just one of the many significant discoveries made at the Lowell observatory.

>>Larry Lemmons:
A view of Flagstaff from the top of Mars Hill. Looking at objects from a distance has made this spot significant in the history of Arizona and astronomy. The Lowell Observatory remains a vital part of humanity's desire to understand the stars. Current research and outreach projects keep the observatory relevant but it was the obsession of one man more than 100 years ago that eventually led to some of the greatest astronomical discoveries in history. Lowell is interred in this mausoleum. He was an amateur astronomer from a wealthy background whose desire to find evidence of life on Mars brought him to Flagstaff.

>> Kevin Schindler:
In the 1890s there's some interesting observations of Mars that were going to be coming up and Lowell Got excited because he wanted to see Mars and perhaps find of evidence of intelligent life. So he set up an observatory in Arizona, which wasn't a state, just a territory of Arizona and Flagstaff that had about 800 people, no electricity and was just a western outpost.

>> Larry Lemmons:: An outpost with the clear view of the stars. Lowell spent 15 years studying Mars with a 24-inch refractor telescope that is still housed in the original dome at the observatory. Lowell made drawings of the red planet and was first to suggest that canals were constructed on Mars. But it was his search for the so-called Planet X which yielded greater success. Lowell believed a 9th planet existed beyond Neptune. After his death, Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what Lowell suspected.

>> Kevin Schindler:
On February 18th, 1930, he was looking at -- comparing two different photographic plates taken of the same area of the sky and there was an area of the sky that Lowell predicted this new object would be and about 4:00 in the afternoon February 18th, Clyde Tombaugh's sitting at the blink comparator machine and there it was. That's how Pluto was discovered.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Even that's not the extent of the Lowell Observatory's legacy in astronomy. Another Lowell astronomer would make history.

>> Robert Millis:
Probably one of the most important discoveries in the 20th century was made right here with this telescope by an astronomer named Vesto Slipher. Using this telescope he was able to obtain the first spectra of what turned out to be external galaxies.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Spectra in 1913 show the galaxies to be moving away from the observer as indicated by a red shift in the absorption lines of their spectra.

>> Robert Millis:
What Slipher discovered was most of the objects were moving away from earth at speeds far beyond anything than had been seen by astronomers before. In fact, what he had found was the first evidence of the expansion of the universe, and his work inspired other astronomers such as Edwin Hubble, to pursue this type of investigation and ultimately prove that the universe is expanding.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Research at the Lowell Observatory is expanding as well. Lowell is involved in the investigation of near earth asteroids and collaborating with astronomers.

>>Bruce Koehn: We can find these fast-moving asteroids and we can send their position to the minor planet center, the minor planet center positions an approximate position and amateurs can pick them up and get further positions. The more positions you have, the better the orbit becomes. That frees this telescope to continue searching.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The fact that Lowell researchers essentially own their instruments means they can engage in long-term monitoring programs. This is a unique strength of Lowell's research.

>> Jeffrey Hall:
We can go out to our instruments day after day, week after week, and perform ongoing observations. This is not something you can do at national observatories like Kit Peak where the observing time is awarded through a competitive peer review process and even if your proposal is one of the one in four or one in five that is successful, you might be awarded two weeks of time over six months. Now, you can do fine science with that kind of a method, but there are limits to what you can do.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Appropriately, it's the nature of how Lowell was founded, the passion of its founder, that now gives the observatory its particular strength.

>> Jeffrey Hall:
This is something that goes all the way back to Percival Lowell in the late 1800's using the Clark telescope night after night making his exhaustive sketches of Mars. It goes to the Pluto search where Lowell postulated the existence of a 9th planet and it was discovered after a long and exhaustive search.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Created at a time when Arizona's documented history was young the Lowell Observatory has contributed to that history in a profound way and continues to make an impact on tomorrow's scientists.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Earlier Michael Grant spoke with Jeffrey Hall, associate director for education and development at Lowell.

>> Michael Grant:
Jeff, after Clyde Tombaugh died there's this controversy about whether is Pluto really a planet. Is it a planet?

>> Jeffrey Hall:
According to definition that our Pluto expert at Lowell uses, it is, and it's not -- we don't view it as a macho thing, as being demoted if it's not a planet. We view a planet as an object that is smaller than a star, meaning it doesn't shine in the way a star does, yet large enough so it's more or less spherical as a result of its own gravity, like the earth is, and if you pick up a rock in the desert it's not a sphere because it's not big enough to mold itself into that shape. By that definition Pluto is a planet.

>> Michael Grant:
What alternatively could it -- I remember the controversy but not the details.

>> Jeffery Hall:
Well because -- Lowell envisioned the existence of a Planet X in the outer solar system, potentially a very large planet, and we haven't found any large planets beyond Neptune. Pluto is quite small. What we have found are a large number of very small objects called Kuyper Belt object names named for an astronomer who proposed it. They're strong, dark, hard to observe, almost asteroid like in that sense. So the question became, is Pluto perhaps a large example of a Kuyper Belt object or something else? In the larger sense, what we really stand to gain from Pluto is a more complete understanding of what the outer solar system is like, what objects way out there in the dark far reaches of our solar system are like. We might get clues as to the early history of the solar system, because objects formed in a very different environment than earth and the planets closer to the sun, and arguing about what to call Pluto really distracts a lot of attention from the real science in what we can really learn.

>> Michael Grant:
There's a mission on its way to Pluto, correct?

>> Jeffery Hall;
Will be, if all goes according to plan, the New Horizons Mission will be launched next January 2006 with a scheduled alive to Pluto in 2015 and we have two astronomers at Lowell Observatory directly involved with that mission, which is quite appropriate given our long heritage in the outer solar system.

>> Michael Grant:
Amazing. Gives you some idea of the distances involved because I was doing fast math there, we're talking nine years to get there?

>> Jeffery Hall:
And that's really fast. You launch a large heavy spacecraft like Cassini or one of these heavier ones it could take several decades. The new horizons mission is a small fast intentionally light spacecraft. It will get a boost as it goes by Jupiter which is a pretty standard thing. You use the gravity of a massive planet to slingshot you

>> Michael Grant:
I'm a big "Star Trek" fan.

>>Jeffery Hall:
If you put the sun there, Jupiter there, the system spreads way out.

>> Michael Grant:
What will it be equipped to do and you mentioned Lowell was playing a role in it --

>> Jeffery Hall:
We have experts in the outer solar system who will be directly involved with the observations of Pluto itself. One of the added benefits of the new horizons spacecraft after it flies by Pluto, they will then fly onto a Kiper Belt object and have a closer look. We can only observe these as little dots on the sky. Even Pluto is pretty much that way. To actually get a close-up look at these objects will revolutionize our view of these little worlds. One of our astronomers is currently at work identifying a promising Kiper Belt object to send new horizons onto after it goes by Pluto.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the other things there has been has been a lot of discussion about and movies, is the perilous state of earth and you get a huge asteroid and you just kind of kiss --

>> Jeffery Hall: Which invariably lands right in the metro district of a large city. That's Hollywood license although it makes for good special effects. Another group at Lowell scans the sky continuously for near-earth asteroids. They are one of several programs per foaming this ongoing search trying tide asteroids that might potentially pass near earth's orbit, determine their orbit and the probability that they would impact earth. This is done in essentially the same way that Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto. It's very much in Lowell's observing heritage. This team takes an image of the sky and then they go back a little later, take another image of the sky. Except instead of looking manually at photographic glass plates like Clyde had to do, they have computer algorithms that go lickety-split through a vast quantity of date you are, much faster an human.

>> Michael Grant:
It was much more mechanical in Clyde's time. You were telling me actually the device --

>> Jeffery Hall:
We have a device on display at Lowell Observatory and some 70,000 visitors get to see it. It's called a blank comparator, you mound two plates and there is a flip mirror that flips your point of view back and forth from one plate to the other as you look through the finder. The stars are actually moving through space but they are so far away they don't appear to. It's like driving on along the road and trees on a on a distant hillside don't appear to move but the road signs go cruising by you because they're so much closer. Pluto kind of did the same thing against a starry background and so what Clyde was able to see amongst thousands of little dots on this plate was Pluto.

>> Michael Grant:
Dr. Hall, terrific! It's good to get the additional information on Lowell and I know you're having celebrations up there even as we speak and wish you the best of luck with them.

>>Jeffery Hall:
Thanks.

>> Cary Pfeffer:
The next Arizona story will be a month from now, March 28th. We will be traveling to Wickenburg to tell you the story of a little red schoolhouse that has played a special part in the heart of the town.

>>Announcer:
Tuesday on "Horizon," we'll look at the laws that exist to protect you from identity theft and reveal some of the problems that make enforcement of these laws so difficult. Join us for Part 2 of a three-part special, identity theft, Tuesday at 7 on Channel 8's "Horizon."

>> Cary Pfeffer:
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Cary Pfeffer. Michael Grant will be back tomorrow night. Have a great night.

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