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What is Identity Theft?

Tuesday, 05 Oct 2010 04:24 PM

Though we can hardly pinpoint a date or time for the start of identity theft, it is the fastest growing crime in this hi-tech world. The news seems to constantly report stories of identity theft.

With identity theft, a person uses someone’s personal information, without the knowledge or permission of that person, to achieve personal ends, which are usually financial in nature. In the process, no bodily harm is done to the person. The information that might be used for such larceny is:
· social security number
· credit card numbers
· bank account numbers
· mailing address
·driver's license number
· home address
· health insurance information

The widespread use of the internet has only made identity theft easier. In today’s world, one has access to a lot of information through the Internet, which often includes accessing account details, shopping, and making payments through credit cards or paying bills, accessing various websites and/or installing freeware, where one provides personal information online.

During the process spywares get installed, which then discloses personal information stored in the computer, without the owner knowing about it. Other methods are through chat rooms, by spreading Trojan horses, or through phishing software.

There are 25 different types of financial identity frauds such as: bank fraud, credit card fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, social program fraud, tax refund fraud, mail fraud, etc. The other types of fraud have a criminal nature as the name suggests, though it also involves a financial element required to fund the criminal activity. The criminal activity includes: computer and cyber crimes, organized crime, drug trafficking, alien smuggling, acts of terrorism, money laundering, etc.

According to the latest statistical report, identity fraud is the foremost in consumer complaints last year, accounting for 21% of crimes. It is also the fastest growing crime; the records showing a steep 12% growth in victims. Though the Internet plays a major role in identity theft, traditional offline methods are still in use.

However scary the situation might seem, one can protect themselves against identity theft. The trick is to be very cautious with personal information. Be very careful when providing personal information to anyone or over the net. Not distributing unnecessary information is protection in itself. When using the internet, always check if you are adequately guarded against identity theft. The best way to protect yourself is keeping track of emails, account balances, credit payments, etc.

If victimized, reporting identity theft to the police and the concerned authorities is mandatory. Taking adequate measures follows. Also, consulting an attorney would be helpful as there are many federal laws to help victims prove their innocence.

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