Identity theft, alternatively known as identity fraud, is a crime in which an imposter wrongfully acquires and uses another individual’s personal data in ways which involve deception and fraud, primarily for economic gain (Smith 273). Identity theft normally involves personal information like one’s social security, credit card, or bank account number and any other valuable information that can be utilized to identify an individual. The greatest problem in curbing identity theft is the fact that in identity theft, the victim is normally the one who must incur the subsequent cost (Smith, 301).
By standard definition, identity theft is what transpires when an individual, separate from oneself, without the victim’s knowledge, acquires and utilizes their private information primarily for economic gain. Shockingly, little information is required to impersonate an unknowing victim (Hoar 80). The required keys to one’s identity are their Social Security Number and name. Since many databases in contemporary society are linked to this number, once obtained, it is practically effortless to pass oneself off as the unknowing victim. Nonetheless, an accumulation of separate information can work equally well – previous or current address, biographical information, birth date, occupation, telephone number et cetera (Davis 12). Once identifying data is obtained, applying for credit cards, closing and opening accounts, and making purchases becomes straightforward.
Crooks have always utilized identity theft to perpetrate embezzlements and other kinds of fraud, but have been significantly boosted by the extensive use of the internet. Identity thieves apply for and receive multiple automobile loans, personal loans, credit cards, and various accounts in the victim’s name (Sharp et al. 1). They use these accounts to the maximum then never make payments. This is especially simple to do over the internet with its self-regulating nature and the incapability of physically confirming an applicant’s identity (Sharp et al. 4). These counterfeit accounts can add to hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Once these accounts are overdue, collectors pester the unknowing victims for payments. The victim is then inconvenienced by these collections and at worst; their life quality is irretrievably damaged – and usually, they undergo a prolonged, costly, and painful procedure to mend their tarnished name (Sharp et al. 6).
Fortunately, steps can be adopted which can protect oneself along with their sensitive information: Shred classified information (Lai et al. 353). Often, identity fraud transpires when a thief ‘dumpster dives,’ that is, foraging through trash in aims of locating confidential information. One can protect themselves against this by shredding documents which contain bank account or social security numbers. Always shred slips and documents that contain such information (Lai et al. 355). Protect your classified information: Identity thieves utilize sophisticated techniques such as fraudulent text messages and phone calls to acquire account and social security numbers. Know who you are on a call with and never provide confidential data over the phone unless you know exactly who is on the other end. Track your credit: Order and scrutinize your free annual credit reports to ensure all listed accounts are yours. Regularly reviewing your credit reports can help you identify an identity theft instance before it spills into a bigger problem.
Do not open suspicious emails: Phishing scams are extremely popular, and phishing emails look legitimate (Brody 53). Do not click on links within emails – instead, type the official URL into your address bar. It the result looks suspect, it probably is. Immediately phone your bank or card company to make inquiries regarding the email. Ensure your passwords are strong: An identity thief’s dream is a weak password – especially if you utilize that weak password on numerous platforms. Once your password is known to an identity thief, they can log in and access your financial accounts thus wreaking havoc (Brody 56). You need strong passwords (over ten characters), with a combination of (numbers, upper case, symbols, and lower cases), and that do not have personal data like (age, pet, birth date, name) incorporated (Lynch 259). When making a purchase, only use reputable websites: If you do not know a company’s reputation and you wish to purchase from them, conduct extensive research (Lynch 259). Look at how others review them. Are their ratings with the Better Business Bureau strong? Are their encryption connections for financial and personal information secured? Consistently applying the steps mentioned above can both defend and reduce identity theft.
Identity theft, alternatively known as identity fraud, remains a substantial problem which continually escalates throughout our communities due to technological advancements and the computerization and digitization of everything possible. Taking a proactive approach is an effective strategy to curtail the exposure to such thefts. Prioritizing information and guarding relevant data is essential in protecting against identity theft. Ultimately, with assistance from legislation and businesses, we can work together in aims of eradicating or at least minimizing the problems resulting from identity theft.
Smith, Russell G. “Identity theft and fraud.” Handbook of internet crime (2010): 273-301.
Hoar, Sean B. “Identity theft: The crime of the new millennium.” Or. L. Rev. 80 (2001): 1423.
Davis, Erin Suzanne. “A world wide problem on the World Wide Web: International responses to transnational identity theft via the Internet.” Wash. UJL & Pol’y 12 (2003): 201.
Sharp, Tracy, et al. “Exploring the psychological and somatic impact of identity theft.” Journal of Forensic Science 49.1 (2003): 1-6.
Lai, Fujun, Dahui Li, and Chang-Tseh Hsieh. “Fighting identity theft: The coping perspective.” Decision Support Systems 52.2 (2012): 353-363.
Brody, Richard G., Elizabeth Mulig, and Valerie Kimball. “Phishing, pharming and identity theft.” Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal 11.3 (2007): 43.
Lynch, Jennifer. “Identity theft in cyberspace: Crime control methods and their effectiveness in combating phishing attacks.” Berkeley Tech. LJ 20 (2005): 259.