Identity theft is the fraudulent act of pretending to be someone else, with the intent of personal gain. Although it is not possible to literally steal someone's identity; it is definitely possible to use it for unethical reasons. Theft of identity can lead to illegal disclosure of confidential or business-critical information, thereby proving detrimental to information security and user privacy.
- Identity theft involves stealing valuable personal information of other individuals. It can result in the opening of fictitious accounts in one's name. The criminal can carry out bank transactions using your name and hamper your finances. He/she can indulge in fraudulent activities and falsify financial transactions in your name and easily get away with it.
- Unauthorized access to an email account is a type of computer crime.
- Several other illegal and immoral activities can result from identity theft. They can prove to be a serious threat to one's very existence.
- Financial identity theft refers to the act of establishing bank accounts in someone else's name and obtaining funds from his/her legitimate accounts.
- Criminal identity theft refers to the act of identifying oneself as someone else before the police officials, in an attempt to protect oneself.
- Identity cloning refers to impersonating for the purpose of concealment. For example, an illegal immigrant may use someone else's social security number for earning employment in a non-native country.
- Fabricating two or more identities to create a fake one, is referred to as synthetic identity theft. For example, one may use the name and birth date of one person with the social security number of another.
- Medical identity theft is another type of identity fraud, which can involve illegal acts of changing medical records and manipulating insurance information. Cyber crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and money laundering are some of the criminal activities associated with identity frauds.
- Criminals employ different means to steal identity. They commonly use cell phones to obtain snapshots of one's personal information like credit card details and social security numbers. Remotely capturing images of a smart card is another way of hacking personal and financial information.
- Debit cards can be counterfeited at malls and restaurants and later be used for fake credit transactions.
- Personal information can be extracted from computers and network servers. Researching public records and government registers is another commonly used method of stealing personal information.
- Impersonating a trusted authority is one of the commonly used methods to hack confidential information. For example, one may pretend to be a customer service representative and trick unaware customers to disclose sensitive data.
How can identity theft be prevented?
- If you have applied for a passport, ID card, or driving license and it has not reached you even after the estimated time, contact the concerned authorities. There are chances that your identity proof has been stolen.
- Make sure to not disclose any additional personal information on your bank checks.
- Shred any bank account statements, canceled checks, or other documents before moving them to trash.
- Monitor your credit report and bank transactions on a regular basis.
Did You Know?
- Financial identity theft is found to be more prevalent in the United States.
- According to a survey conducted in 2003, about 10 million people in the country were found to be victims of identity theft.
- According to a California-based research, those whose identity has been stolen spend about 175 hours and about $800 for fixing their credit problems arising out of theft of their identity. Human effort and money are definitely not worth this wastage.
- Stealing of identities has been observed to be a contributing factor to grave problems like terrorism and illegal immigration.
Identity theft is about pretending to be someone different from who one really is. Come to think of it, we do that sometimes. We steal an identity in the sense that we try to project ourselves as someone different. We reject our true selves and pretend to be someone else. Although, this may not be directly associated with the identity theft we just talked about, the two might be related in some ways. What do you think?