Identity theft is the act of someone acquiring or stealing another person’s personal information and using it for his/her own gain without the permission of the victim. Identity theft has become one of the biggest problems for organizations and individuals to grapple with because of its economic implications as well as damaging outcomes it can cause to people’s private lives. On the other hand, it is a multi-billion industry for criminal gangs, as well as individuals who use it for their personal gain and for security companies, which provide solutions for this problem. Identity theft has escalated due to technological advancement because people’s everyday life nowadays is pegged on technological platform to make life easy.
What is identity theft and how does it occur
Identity theft occurs when someone uses details of another person like name to gain access to information that only among a few others are allowed to access thus acting like an imposter in this case (Sanchez, 2012, p.87). It also occurs when someone uses another person’s social security number to gain access to his/her personal details for use to gain social services like Medicare, insurance benefits, and other services that the owner is allowed to use with his/her social security number. An example to this is a case in the US where a methamphetamine addict stole another woman’s driving license and used it to access maternity services in a hospital using the other woman’s identity thus allowing her to credit services fraudulently. Identity theft also occurs when someone uses another person’s credit card number to purchase items on his/her account without permission. This leads to the victim account being surcharged for items the owner never purchased.
Methods used by criminals
Criminals usually use so many different ways to commit identity theft for committing fraud. One way of the obtaining people’s personal information is by them working in cohort with staff at paying points where one uses their credit cards to pay. They usually install skimming machines that read one card and copies all the details for producing another card, which will then be used by them parallel to the card details to either withdraw cash from the owner’s account or pay for goods (Lim, 2011, p.24). In some cases, one’s information maybe stolen either secretly or by use of force. When force is used, one may be forced to divulge information by being held hostage at gun point. That information is then forwarded to another group that uses it to commit a felony. In some instances, criminals might pick pocket a person thus stealing the information they find in the cards. Some criminals employ the use of computer software that is then secretly installed into a computer as spyware without the computer owner’s knowledge. It will be used to collect secret information like passwords and pin numbers, which will then be used to freely access the victim’s personal information without his/her consent.
How consumers may prevent identity theft
There are many different ways to be used by consumers to prevent identity theft. Consumers can do this by always being careful when using their secret personal codes like passwords and pin numbers by making sure no one is watching them to try to copy them. Another way is for the consumers to report with immediate effect when they realize that they have lost any object that has their personal information like credit cards and driving licenses. This will enable banks and other authorities to move with speed to block the lost cards from being used anywhere by anyone who might be in their possession. Consumers should also be regularly checking their bank balances besides keeping a record of all transactions. This will help them discover when an unauthorized transaction has been made using their information to move with speed to notify the relevant authorities (Mercuri, 2006, p.19). The use of antivirus software on personal computers can also be used to prevent identity theft because most spyware are installed into other people’s computers as forms of a virus or unwanted software.
Technology used by agencies for consumer protection
Agencies over the world like banks have developed hi-tech software that they use to run their systems. They include highly encrypted software that is so integrated that it is almost impossible to hack (Fehar, 2012, p. 20). They have also developed security systems that would always send an alert or take immediate action when it senses an attempt to hack. This would enable the agency to take the necessary action and stop the intended fraud. Some agencies employ the use of closed circuit cameras that are used as security tools for machines like ATMs so that they are not tampered with, and for capturing all the people who come in to make transactions. Another form of technology that agencies have employed is the use of biometric reading equipment that identifies one through his/her unique biometric features like finger prints and the iris to identify someone. These biological features are unique to every individual. Thus, no two individuals can have the same features either naturally or by design. These features are also not easily imitable. Other than the above features, agencies are always in research for new ways to improve the security of their clients.
Industry challenges associated with identity
There are many challenges that the industry faces in trying to take care of identity issues. Before an identity theft is noticed, some form of crime will have happened like fraud for the alarm bells to ring. Therefore, it is always a big challenge for the industry to discover identity theft to stop it before a felony is committed (Schreft, 2007, p.16). Most cases of identity theft have technology as the baseline. Therefore, technology has to be used to stop it. Technology is very expensive to acquire for the industry to be up to date. It is also very dynamic. Within a short time, it becomes obsolete thus forcing the agencies to change all the time to a new technology, which is very expensive for agencies at the end of the day. Most identity thefts are done by experts in the fields of information technology who are usually people who can decode any system and hack into it. They are usually working from remote places, which is a challenge because tracking such people is very difficult. Somehow, they cannot be stopped from doing what they want to do. Some identity thefts are inside jobs. At times, they will go for a long time without being noticed because the people giving out the information are the ones entrusted with it.
Identity theft legislation and current laws
Most countries have enacted legislation that prohibits identity theft on one hand, by providing punitive measures while setting standards for agencies who handle people’s identities to meet the protection requirements of client’s identity. Identity theft is a felony that attracts a jail sentence or a fine or both (Coats, 2008, p.21). These laws vary from country to country or from state to state in the US. For example, in the state of California, identity theft is punishable by a jail sentence, a fine, or both. It attracts a fine of $1000 to $10000. In the US, it falls under the “Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act” while it falls under the “Data protection Act of 1998” In the United Kingdom. All these laws from different countries have been fashioned to protect consumers from losses that occur due to a loss of information that should be confidential. Time has allowed identity theft to flourish due to the advancement in technology. The laws have been further tightened to control it. This though has not been a big deterrence as criminals always device new ways to beat the system.
In conclusion, identity theft has become a big problem for the society to grapple with. Like a hydra, it has different heads as it appears. Therefore, no static measure can be used to address it. The authorities have therefore been put on a high alert to stop it before it happens or stop it after it has happened, but at a manageable cost. Otherwise, this problem has made identity protection a very expensive affair. Therefore, based on the expositions made in the paper, it suffices to declare identity theft a criminal act that needs to be abolished for the sake of security of people’s details.
Coats, B. (2008). Public Information; Public Records-Law and Legislation. Quill, 96(7), 20-22.
Fehar, C. (2012). Computer crimes. Information Sciences, 201(1), 19-36.
Lim, H. (2011). Identity base cryptography for internet security; Internet fraud. International Journal of Information Security, 10(1), 15-32.
Mercuri, R. (2006). Identity Theft: Consumer confidence. Communications of the ACM, 49(5), 17-21.
Sanchez, M. (2012). Identity Theft. Global Journal of Business Research, 6(3), 85-92.
Schreft, S. (2007). Risk of Identity theft: Can the Market protect the payment system? Economic Review (01612387), 92(4), 5-40.