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Crime of the Century!
How do you fight against a crime that uses your own identity against you?
There’s the saying, “Another day, another person falling victim to identity theft”. However, people are failing to see the bigger picture of this horrific event. Now, more and more, with the growing prominence of technology in our 21st century world, Identity Theft (or Identity Fraud) is the fastest growing crime in America as well as the world, some go as far as to say that identity theft is more serious than national security or even war on terror. (“The Global Facts”) With this crime becoming globalized and reaching new heights as years go by, the uproar of taking action resonates all over from local to national levels. The purpose of identity theft reveals itself as an unbelievably functional tool for a criminal to utilize to their own advantage. Technology binds our global economy more short-distanced than ever before. For instance, the infamous Al Qaeda finds great use in identity theft to raise money. Imam Samudra, the terrorist who masterminded the bombing in Bali that killed more than two hundred people in 2002, wrote a jailhouse manifesto about funding terrorism through identity theft and computer fraud. (Weisman) It’s an astonishing thought to think that the more advanced our world becomes for the sake of creating efficiency in our lives and promotion of welfare, the more opportunistic criminal outbreaks sends ripple effects beneath our feet. Another instance is
that the global village brought about by instant computer communication and the internet makes it easier for identity theft to be practiced from afar. Organized crime in Eastern Europe, Nigeria and Somalia are often behind many of the larger identity theft operations. (Weisman)
Fraudulent acts by identity theft even help promote other illegal activities such as illegal immigration, terrorism, trafficking, and other global transactional organizations. Though the United States is the largest victim for identity theft, other parts of the world felt the heat of the crime as well:
In 2002 1.3 billion pounds was lost to identity theft in the United Kingdom;
1.1 billion dollars was lost to identity theft in Australia;
In 2003 2.5 billion dollars was lost to identity theft in Canada.
In 2004, 4.52 million subscribers to Japan's largest provider of broadband web access had personal financial information stolen by criminals. (Weisman)
They always say your greatest enemy to ever face is yourself and ironically saying in a twisted sense, this can apply to many of the victims who unfortunately endured through the life-changing ordeal of identity theft. Now is the time to spread the word nationwide, combating 21st century identity fraud with our very own 21st century counteraction!
The Proof of Existence
The ability to own credit cards and debit cards and have private bank accounts is widely appreciated. People come and go as they please with such things. With technology being as vast as it is now, there is even a feature so that we can check our bank accounts online, go shopping online, and make deposits online. What a great way to manage your time and money without wasting any of it. But consider this, over 7.4 percent of Americans alone are affected from hackers breaching these systems and stealing the only thing that is n
aturally yours, your identity (Horst).
From December 2007 to March 2008 over 4.2 million credit and debit account numbers were exposed in Hannaford stores using malware in their systems, more than 2,000 cases of fraud were reported. In January 2009, one hundred million credit card records were exposed in the Heartland Payment Systems, in 2009 alone, there were more than 400 data breaches and 220 million credit records were stolen. That is more breaches than the past four years combined (Horst). The facts are plain, and to think all the advances in technology there will be in the coming years, it will only be easier for hackers to breach systems and steal from the public.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has advised that not only are domestic identity thieves preying upon Americans but that many identity-theft schemes originate in Russia, Romania, and West Africa,” (Romney). Like identity theft schemes in America, it has to start with someone or a group of people wanting, or even needing money; so bad that they are willing to steal it. Keeping in mind that said places do not have the best financial placement right now. The FBI has also found that five percent of identity theft situations are linked to suspected terrorists who use identity theft to feed their terrorizing (Romney).
A victim of identity theft could be right next to you. He or she could be a normal person; his or her life was probably a good one but you’d never know. People are embarrassed to admit they’re a victim; it’s hard to think about; much less to say out loud. The thing is, people are affected everyday and we wouldn’t even know it. Generally, a victim of identity theft is over the age of forty. (“Two”). It is most important for the older generations, who are retiring soon, to keep a close eye on their bank accounts.
There are many associations formed for victims of identity theft and for fighting of identity theft. Identity theft will not just go away over night, we have to make it happen and it will take a while, but it’s worth saving millions of people’s credit, reputation, and lives.
The Cause and the Effects
There are many ways an ID theft could obtain a victims' personal information. Throughout the years of identity theft , identity thieves have developed a variety of ways to steal and manipulate a victims life. Those such as stealing a purse or wallet, finding personal contact on the Internet, theft of mail, searching through trashcans or dumbsters that either belong to a resident or a business.
Victims of identity theft almost always expect a "stranger" has stolen their personal information when in fact, "in 63% of fraud cases, the point of compromise was either theft by close associates of the consumer (friends, family, neighbors, etc.), lost or stolen wallets, cards, and checkbooks, breached home computers or stolen mail or trash" (Van Dyke). Identity theft could happen to anyone around the world, having no age range or limit. This crime is a fast growing problem and is very serious, particularly in the United States. "One case involved a three week old infant, and the dead are frequent targets of identity theft plots." (Romney).
An identity thief doesn't realize that they are not only ruining a victim's financial life, but also the victim's personal, social, and emotional life as well. It also could hurt the victim's family and the people who are close with the victim. Less than 10 percent of ID thiefs are illegal immigrants "smuggling" their way into America using another persons name, address, contact, and financial aid or in other words, identity. Although, identity theft may be faster growing in the United States, identity theft was started in Russia, Romania, and west Africa.
The growth of the Internet has become a huge cause for identity theft. With technology becoming a part of everything nowadays, to people digital finance is the easiest and fastest way to it done, but also it is the most dangerous. Many people don't know who or what is on the other side of the computer screen. The Internet is a big trouble if you are not careful on what you put up on the Internet. When around a crowd of people be sure to watch out for whose around you and who might be listening. Another form of identity theft is known as "eavesdropping". Eavesdropping is listening to private conversations of data on unprotected communications, wheter it is a telephone conversation or a face to face conversation. The most frequently used technique used to interfere in signals is by wiretapping a telephone conversation (Romney).
As it was stated in the previous paragraphs, identity theft is very serious. Some cases can be resolved rather quickly while in others' case it could last for up to many months or even years. Many victims of idenity theft will miss out on future job opportunitites or be denied for loans on education, housing, or cars. In very little cases, some victims may become arrested for crimes they did not commit. "Identity thefts soared in 2008, and in 2009 it shaped up to be another banner year for phishers, hackers, and other ID thieves." (Adhikari). In 2008 , identity theft was at the top of the list for complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. Accounting for 2.6 percent of 1.2 million and counting complaints in the last year. In 2009 , cause of information being lost ranged from a person not disposing of old data to large data breaches, according to a report by the ITRC'S. From the years 2007 to 2009 breaches of idenity theft increased by 47 percent (Adhikari).
Checing your bank statements and credit reports every month are good ways to keep track of anything suspicious. Always secure your financial data, don't carry your social security card in your purse or wallet, completely destroy old documents, and use secure passwords and change them often. After a victim has detered identity theft the next step would be to detect it. If a person discovers identity theft in it's early stages then it would be easier to stop damage of the problem. (Romney).
Victims have the power to stop the many forms of idenity theft in its tracks just by being careful with records and actions. Although, some of identity theft cases are unpreventable, keeping track of your records is a big step to prevention. Several ways a person can detect identity theft is to use an identity theft protection company to monitor your credit, receiving unexpected bills for items you did not purchase, not receiving bills that are expected, and a denial of credit when the victim is said to be qualified.
Even if an identity thief has stopped making a person their victim, life after that can be brutal. Victims have to pay off all the debt the thief has put them in, a victim must try to put the pieces of their life back together and that may take years to do. Because of identity theft victims might be fired from their jobs and disconnected to their families. Identity theft brings much embarrassment to a victim. Victims will have to explain themselves to the police, friends, and family, and credit issuers. (Adhikari).
Stress is also a common effect of identity theft. It is stressful to have to live life trying to fix the damages another person has made. It is stressful to have to repeatedly explain the situation especially if people really don't believe the victim. Identity theft is hard to get over and it's not just another thing in life; it is a huge disaster. After a certain amount of stress, it can lead to depression.
Embarressment, stress, depression, and manipulation are the biggest effects of identity theft, and no one wants it. Identity theft victims have their rights. The biggest right is being able to control your own life. Don't let idenity theft take over your life, friends or family. Be aware, be secure of your information, and be prepared to take action at any moment. Because remember, identity theft can happen to any person regardless of who that person is.
The Future Brings Mysteries
We all love how technology has advanced and changed our lives for the better, but if we aren’t careful enough it might come against us.
With everything we touch, our identity gets passed along with it. With the furthering of technology, making it ever more complex, we are making it easier for someone to steal our identity.
With identity theft becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in the world it is no wonder we want to stop it. The government is working on products that use biometric to identify murders by using fingerprints. Biometric devices sensing for SARS symptoms are omnipresent in Asian airports. And the first prototypes of systems that test in real time for SARS, HIV, and bird flu have been deployed abroad.( Saffo B01) Doing what you thought was secure information online isn’t that simple anymore. Search engines such as Google will openly display the keyword typed in, and since the search engine can’t determine what is secure or not it can lead someone to it. Things aren't all gloom and doom. In 2007, 26 percent more identity thieves were convicted in the United States than in 2006. That's a huge jump, but it still means that only 1,943 people were convicted of identity theft last year — that's out of about 1.6 million
identity theft on file with the Federal Trade Commission. Partly this is because the techniques that ID thieves use are always changing with changing tech. But it's also because so many of these crimes happen across national lines.(Newitz)
Not only will identity theft have the chance to increase in the future, but it can also change your future for the worse. As a student, you may even be more vulnerable to identity theft because of the availability of your personal data and the way many students handle this data.
Almost half of all college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these students throw out card applications without destroying them. Nearly a third of students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances. Almost 50 percent of students have had grades posted by Social Security number.(U.S. Education)
Identity theft is not only limited to financial problems, but personal and emotional also.
Identity thieves can cause damage to your name and result in illegal activities being associated with you. The damages caused can take many months to clear up and to repair. In some instances, it can even take several years to completely clear up and have all illegal transactions cleared from your credit report.
Interest probably won't start growing until biometric systems overcome certain problems. Last year, researchers in Japan demonstrated they could fool fingerprint scanners with fake fingers made from readily available materials.(“A Future”) If workers can easily fool a fingerprint scanner to get by as someone else what makes you think that a highly specialized person that deals with identity theft will not? However with more technological advancements the biometrics might do more harm than good.
By ensuring that an online buyer is legitimate, biometrics will reduce the risks and costs to sellers. You can expect credit card issuers and e-tailors to encourage the use of biometric identifiers by rewarding purchasers who present biometric ID data online with discounted prices and interest rates.(Karen)
So will identity theft ever be stopped? With the further advancement in technology that will really force the consumer to use their body parts then I think we might actually have a fighting chance.
With identity theft as the fastest growing crime in the world as well as the United States, it is up to the consumers, the people, to avoid becoming victims of identity theft. In the modern world of excess use of technology, personal information can be obtained as simply and easily as a person’s name. Much is being done to stop the rapid growth of this devious deed, but most of the solution rides on consumers, the potential victims. “Identity theft can happen anytime and anywhere and to any person,” said PCCD (Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency) chairman Walter M. Phillips Jr. (“PCCD”). And indeed, it can, for personal information is very sensitive, even if it said to be guarded by institutions. The so-called protective walls of the organizations handling personal information are now easily being broken by master thieves of the 21st century.
The United States is not the only one suffering from the devastating scourge of identity theft; like a virus, this growing crime sends a ripple effect throughout the globe, all thanks to the Internet. “Because the Internet is so global, the problem becomes global very quickly,” says Bruce Schneier, founder of CounterPane Internet Security. (Young) The more frightening part is that the behind-the-scenes purpose of identity theft is no longer the simple “filching of goods and money”; it extends to other useful functions for the criminal. For example, identity thieves are also becoming illegal immigrants with the help of using one other’s personal information to easy their way past immigration controls.
An attorney in San Diego Mari Frank, who was also a victim of identity theft herself, explains more of the terrors of this multi-convenient crime for criminals:
“The 9-11 terrorists, every single one of them,” she says, “had some false documents. And over half of them had taken over a complete other identity so that they could get into the country without anyone knowing who they are.” (Young)
combat this new methodology of identity theft, immigration authorities began using biometrics—using unique features like the iris of the eye and fingerprints—to identify individuals. However, it is said that even biometrics can be corrupted, stolen from a database and misused. The databases holding sensitive personal information are consolidated into centralized files, making it easy for identity thieves to access them. (Young) This strongly suggests how the technological world we live in today intensifies the dangers of seemingly unlikely crimes to become a large concern.
Though identity theft does take many forms, it is clear that they are all similar in one aspect: using other’s personal information to commit fraud. (Givens) The basic purpose of these filches is to get to something belonging to the victim, whether it is money, accounts, or other personal files such as property, occupations, and simply using one other’s identification as a whole. There are various ways to counteract against identity theft; in fact, many organizations post up prevention programs to help consumers avoid identity theft or recover from the damages of the crime. Such programs even include
. (“PCCD”) In addition, it is strongly encouraged that countries set up laws regarding the safekeeping of personal information. Unfortunately, the passing of these laws are not widely accepted by everyone, especially corporations in the economic world. Some aspects of identity theft are largely outside
of the control of consumers. (Delaney) The best way to deal with the situation on your own is to take extra precautions when giving personal information. Of course, restraining from the use of information like Social Security numbers is difficult; so when in doubt, it is still entirely on you to take action for the sake of safety: call the institution and ask for yourself. The aforementioned Internet being the huge medium of identity theft speaks for itself: safe practices in the Internet will help increase prevention of sensitive information being stolen. Precautions such as installing antivirus or antispyware will do the trick as well as the autonomy to contact the authorities behind a website to confirm legitimacy.
The biggest concern is accessible databases are retrieved despite the protection. This is possible because of human resources. Linda Foley, co-founder of the privately-run Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego says, “How hard is it to go to one of the [Internet] websites and buy information? Those who want this information know what street corners to go to in every major city.” (Young) As well as information being found for sale, it also not being regularly monitored by companies against employee’s use of these databases. Again, the strong urge for a legal regulation of personal information is at hand. According to a statistics from 2003-2006, identity theft extracted by lost items were the major culprit. (“How”) But now, the category of “taken by an employee” seems to be on the rise. Security consultants place strong emphasis on companies needing to cooperate on the fight against identity theft if there was to be any hope in greatly reducing the crime. Unfortunately, corporations lobby p
oliticians to keep controls from being i
mposed in an effort to reduce costs and maintain profits. (Young)
There is still hope for those who have been victimized by identity theft. Luckily, legal protections even cushioned the damage of identity theft by not charging the victim. (Givens) However, it can still harm a victim’s credit history, so it is always best to avoid being victimized in the first place. It is always up to the victims to save themselves and prove of their innocence after their record has been tarnished. The victim must contact help and provide information and evidence to receive help. (Delaney) Also, many legislation processes are being undergone to better protect the people from identity theft. Regulation of organizations handling personal information, security freezes, notification to people of identity theft, imposing fines on companies that lose people’s data are just some of the actions being taken to combat identity theft. (Delaney) With all of these, it is still largely the victims who can save themselves. By getting up, contacting proper authorities of their situation and getting things back together, people can counteract identity theft. But the inevitable truth remains: the personal information of millions of people around the world continues to be stolen and misused. (Young)
This is just the beginning...
There you have it. Accordingly as the world watches achievements and accomplishments soaring the skies above our heads, new conflicts arise in the background. We know now that identity theft reached a more global magnitude than ever possibly scoped in comparison to other crimes, and how identity theft has a great connection to other transactional organized crime to beef them up on the rise too. As the greatest enemy of money and valid information, it truly is a formidable opponent the world has yet to quell. However, despite the obscurity of possible solutions, there is indeed hope! Together the world is making excellent progress! A joint effort of law enforcement agencies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Bulgaria, Belarus, Poland, Sweden, the Ukraine and the Netherlands led to the arrest October 2004 of twenty-eight identity thieves who operated an on-line global clearing house for stolen credit card numbers used by thousands of criminals throughout the world. (Weisman) And like earlier said, prevention programs are up and running and many legislative actions are pursued in hope of combating the crime of the century! With the world doing everything they can to protect the people against the terrors of identity theft, now it is our turn to do the same! Recall, a huge percentage of the best reduction plan of identity theft is entirely on us, the people. To be able to stand up and fight for justice for the sake of protecting not only ourselves, but also our loved ones and others who faces the challenges of identity theft as well, then together we truly can be the driving force behind the greatest solution in history, powered by the people of the world! With international 21st century crimes comes an international 21st century counteraction!
How do you fight against a crime that uses your own identity against you?
THE SOLUTION RIDES ON YOU!
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