Identity theft is a problem in today’s society that needs more attention than it is getting. In 2006 alone 15.6 billion dollars were stolen or used in identity theft related cases. Of course monetary figures alone do not give the problem proper justice. The time and stress of the victims trying to recover from their identities being stolen must also be taken into account.
To begin to address the problem I think we must first fully understand what the problem is and how it is occurring. Identity theft is the act of using someone else’s personal information for personal gain of any sort. We can break it down further by classifying identity theft into 3 categories: financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, and identity cloning.
Financial identity theft is what most of us commonly associate as identity theft. It is the use of another person’s personal information to withdraw a loan, withdraw money from the victim’s bank account, or receive items of value. In this type of identity theft the victim is usually unaware of what has taken place until the damage has already been done, and they are left with a large sum of money that is either missing or owed.
In criminal identity theft, a fake ID using the victim’s information is used when the thief is being cited for a ticket. The victim is then left to pay for the ticket and any other repercussion that should never have been put onto him.
Lastly, identity cloning is the act of using a victim’s personal information to “become” the victim. The thief uses the information that he has obtained to assume the victim’s identity to hide his real identity. The thief may do this for a number of reasons such as hiding from the authorities for a crime, for illegal immigration, etc.
Now that we have identified what the problem is, we can try and understand how these thieves are getting their victim’s personal information. A very common and possibly the oldest way of doing so is stealing or dumpster diving for documents that have a person’s personal information written on it. Another common way is to either eavesdrop or look over the shoulder of someone that is punching in their personal information.
With the dawn of the electronic age, new ways of stealing people’s identity have come about. A very common way is through viruses that essentially steal your personal information and send it back to the hacker that sent it. Another is through “skimming” cards which read and memorize credit cards that are run through it so that they can be used later. A growing concern in identity theft is the obtaining of personal information through social networks like Facebook. This is definitely a problem as many people do not realize how dangerous it is to put their personal information on the internet. The majority of the populace does not realize that once something is on the internet, it’s up for the world to see and use as they see fit.
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