Identity theft can be defined as an offense or deception where somebody makes up to be what he or she is not in order to get definite profit or steal funds. It is also sometimes known as iJacking. The term is a misnomer as naturally it is impossible to steal someone’s identity. (WebMediaBrands, 1) Thus, an identity thief uses a person’s identity by obtaining his important personal information, like driving license number or bank account number, so as to impersonate him. The impersonator can use this information to obtain merchandise, credit or other stuff using the victim’s name. He can also give fake identification to police authorities who may issue arrest warrants or issue criminal records in the name of the victim. The identity thieves for the most part look for the victim’s name, date of birth, social security number, account numbers, address, online user IDs, personal recognition information and internet passwords. Thus, it is important to understand the nature of Identity thefts and prepare accordingly. (NYT, 1)
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The Identity Theft Resource Center along with other sources has divided identity theft into five classes. They are:
Financial identity theft
It takes place when a victim’s identity is used to acquire credit, goods or services. It further has two versions:
- The impersonator can open new accounts in the victim’s name or by using a fake identity. He can then use the victim’s goodwill and credit history to get funds, like loans, or an account that he can overdraft.
- The imitator can also get finances, by pretending as an existing account possessor, from a genuine bank account belonging to the sufferer. For this, the perpetrator has to obtain a PIN code or card number of the victim and use that for accessing funds through an ATM or branch teller.
It is very difficult for the victims to discover financial identity theft. They can simply recognize when they are deprived of credits or there are grievances in their credit narration or if they are contacted by the creditors. Their credit reports may be greatly affected unless they are able to prove that they are not responsible for the frauds. (Smith, 33)
We can also categorize financial identity theft into two ways. They are:
- True name identity theft – It implies that the impersonator uses the victim’s personal document and information for opening new bank accounts. The impersonator may establish a new cellular phone service or create a checking account to acquire blank checks or open a credit card bank account. (Harris, 268)
- Account takeover identity theft – It entails that the imitator uses the sufferer’s private credentials and details for accessing the victim’s accessible accounts. Even before the victim realizes the problem, the impersonator changes the victim’s address and increases billing amount. (Milhorn, 162)
Identity concealment and cloning
A circumstance of distinctiveness disguise and cloning arises when a mimic gets hold of private identifiers of the sufferer and masquerades as the sufferer in order to conceal from establishment. The imitator mainly does this to keep away from getting under arrest for an offense, be able to illegitimately work in an overseas nation or to be able to conceal from creditors and other populace. Unlike financial identity theft, identity concealment may continue to take place for an indefinite period without being discovered. To create an extremely concealed and convincing impersonation the impersonator may even attempt to obtain fake IDs and documents that are coherent with the actual cloned identity.
Criminal identity theft
It takes place when an impersonator presents himself as a different individual, i.e. as the victim, in front of authorities. To do this the impersonator has to obtain national IDs or personal documents belonging to the victim or simple fake them. When the police take into custody the imitator, they present their counterfeit IDs and illicit charges are placed under the victim’s name. The impersonator is then released, but when he fails to attend his court hearing, the warrant that is issued is in the victim’s name. The victims discover the fraud when they are arrested or a background check is done on them. The process of clearing the victim’s record is a difficult one and sometimes the authorities may forever list the victim’s name as the criminal’s alias. (Miller, 5)
Synthetic identity theft
It has recently become very common and takes place when the identity acquired by the impersonator is partially or completely made up. The most common process of doing this is by combining an actual social security number of one victim with the name and date of birth of another victim. It is probably the most difficult to track of all the identity thefts as the credit score of neither of the victims will show the fraud directly but will actually appear as a completely new entry or as a sub-file of the credit report of the victims in the credit bureau. This mainly harms the creditors who unknowingly grant credit to the impersonators. The name of the victims may be confused with the false identities and harmful information in their credit report may affect their credit.
Medical identity theft
It takes place when the impressionist uses the victim’s private details, health cover credentials, to get hold of drugs, diverse medicinal treatments or even acquire compensations from insurers through counterfeit claims. Thus, it is possible that our health care documents or medical history may contain other people’s information. This can even be life threatening for us. For example we may be given wrong blood type during a surgery or the records may even show a surgery we may have never had or leave out those which we have had. In the future, our doctors may perform accurate diagnoses relying on the false records that may delay our proper treatment and we may even loose our life. (Muir and Criddle, 286)
Identity theft is not at all a new crime. It has merely mutated itself by including new technologies like ATMs and online banking. Nowadays it is even easier for the identity thieves to use stolen information due to the advent of the Internet since transactions can be made online eliminating personal interactions. Due to the computerization of the banking and other financial dealings and credit cards it has become much easier for the pretenders to pilfer other’s personal details and thus can camouflage as the victim. Credit cards are often used for verifying people’s identities and thus, an impersonator can pretend to be someone else by using their credit card. This also enables them to steal money. Thus, all the impersonator really has to do is obtain a succession of appropriate numbers for completing the crime. The victim of identity theft can suffer serious consequences if held responsible in place of the imposter. The various activities that are undertaken by the impersonators may even cause the victims to loose their jobs. Medical identity thefts can even cause us to loose our lives or the lives of our near and dear ones. Many nations have precise and explicit laws in opposition to using other’s personal uniqueness and details for one’s private gains.
In order to avoid identity theft we regularly verify our credit scores with the credit bureaus, destroy any unwanted credit applications, confirm with our creditors if our bills are not on time and protect ourselves by not broadcasting our personal information in unknown e-mails. Identity theft can also be used for smooth progress of offenses like counter nation surveillance, unlawful migration, and blackmail and terror campaigns.
Actions that can be taken by individual users as well as organizations to restrict spam emails are as such installing software like Norton Spam Blocker, Best Spam Filter, Anti spam Mail, Spam Free, Lotus Anti Spam, Virus Spam, Free Spyware, SMTP Filter, Mail Software, Spam Blacklist, etc. (Shareware Connection, 1) These softwares do away with spam and fraud automatically. These soft wares are easy to use with no configuration. Cloudmark Desktop does not transform the way the user uses his or her email, no arrangement essential for its installation, just after installing immediately the user is protected from email threats. (Shareware Connection, 1)
In many anti-spam systems provide a safe senders list, which indicates that mail from those on the list is good and spam free. But any safe senders list is personal to each user, it is not possible to have a global safe senders list in view of the fact that one’s friend may be another’s enemy as far as the type of email one sends and another receives. In a spam control system which has a safe senders list and where subscribers can add email addresses to, but more significantly delete emails from for senders who are no longer active. Safe senders list should be examined at least monthly and redundant emails removed lest one have several known spammers on your safe senders list. Various online groups have been created where users can join and counteract against spam emails. Spam attacks may be prevented up to some extent by the use of these measures. In this present world of prevailing dynamism computer system operate as the supreme authority. With the extensive use of computers in every aspect of life computer security has become very essential. Thus for securing privacy of the user’s computer security should be given more priority.
However, assuming someone’s identity with his or her approval and knowledge, like giving an exam in someone’s place or cheating cannot be considered as identity theft. It has a very broad concept and mainly deals with credit card hoaxes. There are many techniques used by the imposters to get hold of personal identification, information and documents of the sufferers and can range from stealing their mail, going through their junk for paper documents, stealing it from their computers and files to infiltrating organizations which stock up huge numbers of private information. Over the years a large number of innocent people have been arrested due to people who have committed crimes exploiting their names. It is among the fastest developing crimes in the USA and the victims have to spend huge amounts of money and time in order to resolve their problems due to identity theft.
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Milhorn, Thomas. Cybercrime: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim. NY: Universal-Publishers, 2007.
Miller, Michael. Is It Safe?: Protecting Your Computer, Your Business, and Yourself Online. London: Que Publishing, 2008.
Muir, Nancy and Linda Criddle. Using the Internet Safely For Seniors For Dummies. London: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.
NYT. “Identity Theft”. The New York Times Company. Monday, 2009. Web.
Shareware Connection. ‘Software Downloads for “Spam Servers”‘. Shareware Connection. 2009. Web.
Smith, Robert Ellis. Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws: 2002. Ed 9. LA: Privacy Journal.
WebMediaBrands. “iJack”. Webopedia. 2009. WebMediaBrands Inc. Web.