This patent (us7983979 at https://www.google.com/patents/US7983979) is basically the concept of asking someone for a pin they previously provided- known only to them, of course! - in order to confirm their identity. And this is a patentable invention in 2006. I know I must be missing something. Can anyone who understands the patent process please explain.
The real standard for obviousness--and anything, really--is in the claims.
The main claim in this patent, claim 1, reads as follows:
A method for establishing a credit account comprising:
receiving initial information from a consumer sufficient to permit a trusted third party to establish said consumer as a subscriber of said trusted third party's services;
establishing said consumer as a subscriber of said trusted third party, wherein the number for accessing a communication device of said subscriber is retained on one or more hardware devices by said trusted third party;
said subscriber requesting a credit account from an account provider;
said account provider contacting a credit bureau and requesting said subscriber's credit file;
said credit bureau providing said account provider with said subscriber's credit file containing contact information for said trusted third party and identifying information for said subscriber;
said account provider requesting authorization from said trusted third party to open said subscriber's account;
said trusted third party contacting said subscriber on said subscriber's communication device;
said subscriber providing said trusted third party with confirmation that said subscriber desires said account provider to be provided access to said credit file; and
said trusted third party authorizing said account provider to proceed in opening said account on behalf of said subscriber.
Phew, that was a mouthful. As you can notice, this is a little more specific than its abstract may suggest. It's difficult to know with complete certainty what any one patent is meant to represent, but here it sounds like it's a form of two-factor authentication where a user's cell phone (or equivalent) is used to provide security for a user opening a credit account. It sounds like it would be useful for a service like LifeLock or a bank interested in avoiding fraudulent accounts being opened.