Identity theft? What is it to be a victim of Identity theft? “I feel completely violated’’—this phrase is commonly heard from those who have experienced identity theft and then had their personal information used to commit a fraudulent act”. But why? Our identity is something that we all value. We are given a name at birth, we are assigned a Social Insurance Number (SIN), and we can readily obtain credit cards and bank cards. We are given a birth certificate with personal identifiers on it, and we have various forms of identification that contain our facial images (e.g. photo identification on our driver’s licences, passports, and even student ID cards). It is virtually impossible to engage in any social interactions without disclosing, at some level, some degree of who and/or what we are.
Identity theft occurs when a criminal obtains confidential information from an individual or business and uses it to access private financial accounts. The personal information stolen from an individual in order to gain this access might include social security number (SSN), address, date of birth, or mother’s maiden name. Once offenders have this information, they have the ability to open bank accounts, make loans, rent homes, apartments or automobiles, set up utilities and a myriad of other things, all in another individual’s name. Information stolen from a business might include bank account numbers, bank access codes, computer access codes or restricted employee records. Thus, just as with identity theft against an individual, the company’s financial accounts, or perhaps those of individuals whose information was taken from the company, are then capable of being violated.
With that being said are people are aware of the dangers consequences and ways of avoiding identity theft? Identity theft is becoming more and more common in today’s world because of advances in information technology, more devious hackers have easier access to personal information. With this in mind awareness needs to be brought about so that people are aware of the dangers through media/internet.
To begin with what is Identity Theft? Identity theft is a type of fraud which involves stealing money or gaining other benefits by pretending to be someone else. Having your identity stolen can be both financially and emotionally devastating. Identity theft can occur in many ways, from somebody using your credit card details illegally to make purchases to having your entire identity assumed by another person to open bank accounts, take out loans and conducting illegal business under your name. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in most parts of the world, occurring when the criminal obtains confidential information from an individual or business and uses it to access private financial accounts. In today’s world of information technology, many thieves prey on their victims via the Internet. The level of disclosure of personal information in many of today’s information age transactions is what leaves so many individuals and businesses open to identity theft.
Two of the most common ways that thieves acquire personal information to aid them in identity theft are phishing and pharming.
Phishing utilizes bulk e-mail messages to entice recipients into revealing personal information. Phishing is much more insidious than spam e-mail messages selling products. The average time for spammers to target e-mail addresses is 29.5 days. Identity criminals, on the other hand, typically act on victims’ responses within 14 hours of receipt. The difference in speed may be due to the operating structure of the crime. Typically there is a division of labor between the harvesters of e-mail addresses and the actual spam senders. Phishing is a serious solitary criminal activity as phishing e-mails are lures cast into cyberspace in an attempt to hook the unwary. For example, a criminal may send out one million e-mails that appear to be from Republic Bank. By chance, some recipients will actually be Republic customers. This does not mean that a list of Republic customers is circulating on the Internet. Still, in some instances, financial institutions may have disclosed customers’ information. Privacy notices warn individuals that their information may be shared unless the customer follows specific instructions.
Pharmers, on the other hand, cast a wide net for the unaware. There is a huge potential reward for criminals who succeed in these malicious acts. In addition, now that organized crime has become involved, the money available to help thieves carry out the crimes is immense. Pharming is a more technologically advanced form of phishing in which a virus or malicious program is secretly installed on a computer. Typing in a legitimate web address takes the computer user to an imitation of the site. As a result, any information provided at the fake web site, such as account numbers or passwords, can be stolen (ID thieves preying). Thus, even though the computer screen displays the desired web address, the domain-name server system has redirected the traffic to a fraudulent location. Computer users unintentionally download the malicious program without clicking on a link or opening an attachment. Opening a pharmer’s e-mail message is all that is required to install the stealth application redirecting the browser to a counterfeit web site. A virus can attack through Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook or Yahoo using a keylogger. This type of virus tracks a user’s keystrokes on legitimate web sites and captures passwords. Consequently, consumers who use the same password on numerous sites expose themselves to multiple frauds. Pharmers cast a wide net across the Internet to catch prey. Redirecting Internet traffic to fraudulent web sites can be done several ways. For instance, pharmers often take advantage of spelling mistakes in domain names. The pharmer builds a web site with one letter missing from the legitimate address to trick the unwary into believing the address is genuine. Another popular mode of pharming is malware, malicious software. This type of virus alters the code of a consumer’s computer causing a correctly typed address to be redirected to a fraudulent web site.
Of course with discussing what is identity and the types of it there are bound to be consequences if you are a victim of identity theft. Once an identity thief has your personal information, he or she can use it to cause you major problems. These consequences can ruin your credit rating, drain your bank account, and cause hardship for you for years to come.
- Spending spree – The criminal may make expensive purchases that are easy to sell on the street for cash.
- New credit cards – It is easy to get new credit cards. With minimal difficulty, new credit cards can be ordered in your name.
- Use existing credit cards – If they have your credit card numbers, thieves can use them to make purchases.
- Change your address – Your billing or mailing address could be changed by the thieves to hide their activities.
- Take out loans – The identity thieves could take out loans in your name. Of course, they have no intention of ever paying the loans back.
- Service sign-up – The thieves might sign up for services, like phone or broadband service, in your name.
- Bad checks – A checking account could be opened in your name that would allow the thieves to write bad checks under your name.
All these listed above are some of the ways of what can happen if you become a victim.
However here are some tips to help avoid Identity Theft. Remember to always be aware!