Identity theft is the use of a persons name or identity in a subtle way for economic gain. This includes personal data such as social security number, bank account or credit card number, phone, and other important identity data, mostly for profit at the owners expense. There are many cases in various countries, where unauthorized persons swindle unsuspecting people. In some cases criminals commit crimes using the victim's name. Many people lose not only finances, but also incur costs associated with trying to restore their reputation in the community and correcting the erroneous information for which the criminals are responsible.
Criminals obtain personal data in different ways. For instance, in public places, criminals may engage in shoulder surfing listening to someone's conversation as he or she gives a credit card number over the telephone to a hotel or car rental company. Criminals may also watch somebody from a nearby location as he or she keys in telephone card. In other instances, if a person receives applications for the credit card in the mail and discards them without tearing them, criminals may obtain them and retrieve this data and try to activate the card without the owner's knowledge.
In the recent years, criminals are using internet to obtain vital information such as passwords or banking information. There are also some instances where criminals use computer technology to obtain personal data from unsuspecting people. Many people respond to unsolicited spam emails without knowing that the senders are trying to gain some information about them.
The vast amount of personal data obtained through computer technology is used to take over an individual identity for a broad range of crimes (Davis, 2013). This includes fraudulent loans application and credit cards, withdrawing fraudulently from banks accounts, using telephone card fraudulently, or even obtaining unlawful privileges. If criminals have a way of making sure that the bills of falsely obtained credit cards or bank statement are not sent to an address of the victims, the victims may become aware of the happening when already the criminals have already inflicted substantial damage.
Recently, Congress passed the Identity Theft Assumption Deterrence Act. This legislation created the offense of identity theft. This crime concerns knowingly transferring or using means of identification of another person without lawful authority with the intent to commit or to aid an illegal activity (Anderson, Durbin, & Salinger, 2008). The offence of identity theft carries a maximum of term 15 years jail term or fine and a criminal forfeiture of any personal property used to commit the crime.
Various investigative agencies work with government prosecutors to prosecute fraud cases and identity theft. To the victims of identity theft, the process of correcting the identity theft and fraud is a daunting task. The damage caused to the victims of identity theft and fraud take longer to remedy than it takes the criminal to commit the offense.
One can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. This can be done by being stingy in giving personal information to people unless there is a reasonable ground to do so. The need to know approach can be adopted when giving the personal information. For instance, credit card Company may need a persons mother maiden name to verify their identity when they call to inquire about their account. Also people should avoid giving information that is already in the files of an enterprise, especially if enquired via telephone. Additionally, if people are contacted by a stranger via telephone and gives them enticing offers such as a chance to receive valuable items or benefits and asks for personal information such as social security number, credit card number and expiration date, mothers maiden name, the person should ask for a written application form.
When people are traveling, they should have their mails held at the local post office or a well-trusted family members or friends to collect the mails and keep them until you return. When calling while traveling, people should not do it at an open place where others can listen to what they are saying, especially when giving sensitive information (Biegelman, 2009). If personal statements are mailed to wrong address, people should inform their financial institution and probably take the necessary action. People should also regularly request for copies or their statements to determine whether there are any fraudulent transactions. If unauthorized debits or charges are done against somebodys financial accounts, the quickest way to find out is to check the monthly statements carefully. In the event where a person becomes victim of identity theft, he or she should respond and report to the necessary authorities immediately to minimize the damages.
Anderson, K. B., Durbin, E., & Salinger, M. A.. (2008). Identity Theft. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 171192.
BIBLIOGRAPHY \l 1033 Biegelman, M. T. ( 2009). Identity Theft Handbook: Detection, Prevention, and Security. lHoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Davis, A. (2013). Identity Thief. New York City: Scholastic Inc.
Jr, R. J. (2003). Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Most Valuable Asset. Wyne: Career Press.
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