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Identity Theft

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Identity Theft + Fraud= Identity Crime
20 December 2007 There is a thief that lurks around us everyday; this thief can attack in brad day light or in the darkest hour, and just about anywhere you may find yourself. This thief has the power to act in your name, make unlimited purchases, open up credit accounts and ruin your good name and credit all in the matter of seconds; if you are vulnerable enough, you might become his next victim. In many cases all he needs is your name and a social security number, and he has enough information to make you his next victim; if you don’t believe me then ask the millions of Americans that became victim’s, or just ask me. The thief that I am talking about is identity theft. Identity theft is a crime that is affecting many Americans, the costs are well in the millions every year, but with a little bit of knowledge and adaptive common practices, you can help fight back and minimize your chances of becoming the next victim of Identity theft. Identity theft is as predictable as a giant storm; you really don’t know what the damage will be until it passes and many victims don’t even see it coming until its already too late. So what is identity theft? According to the webpage article “about identity theft,” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (2007) writes that “identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, like your name, SSN… without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.” (para 1) All it takes is critical personal information so that a thief can make a wide range or criminal activities. Items such as ATM cards, drivers license numbers, or credit card numbers in the hands of another person is as dangerous as giving a stranger the keys to your most valuable processions. Identity theft is taking various shapes and evolving into a common crime, but getting educated today can increase your chances of protecting yourself and your family. Identity theft is continually affecting its victims in many different ways, no matter how small or large the theft, it is taking its toll. In the journal, “Identity Theft Toolkit,” Ramaswamy (2006) writes that over “9 million” Americans have been victims of identity theft. Not only individuals but businesses are also being affected; the “loss to businesses has been: 56.6 million.” The “loss to individual victims has been: 5 billion,” and the time the victims have spent trying to resolve their problems: “297 million hrs.” (para 3) We can clearly see that identity theft is affecting millions of Americans every year; taking up their time and I many cases affecting individuals and businesses financially. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (2007), “there are four different types of identity theft:”
- Financial identity theft. A victims critical personal information such as his/her name, DOB, SSN, etc. are used to apply for credit such as loans, credit cards, or making purchases on merchandise, cars, apartments, etc.
- Criminal identity theft. This happens when the identity thief gets in trouble with the law and then uses another persons name and information so that the criminal act is blamed on that individual.
- Identity cloning. This is when another person takes up the name of another person deceased or alive, to start a new life with all the necessary identification and papers to go along with that identity.
- Business identity theft. This is when bank accounts or cards are opened using the name and address of a business used to acquire loans or merchandise.
Identity thieves are finding easier ways to obtaining such vital information to commit identity theft. Many thieves can get such information with what we get in our mail boxes, such as bills, to what we throw away in the trash; known to a thief as dumpster diving. A thief can also listen to what critical information we are freely giving away in public such as date of births, credit card information, addresses, etc… Another easy method used to obtain such information can be e-mails that are known as “phishing” e-mails; these emails target personal credit information such as credit card numbers, SSN, or bank account numbers. E-mails such as these often pretend to represent an official bank or crediting company. Telemarketing is also another method being used to obtain all sorts of critical information over the phone. Many of these methods are very simple and the consequences of giving the wrong information to the wrong person can lead to identity crime. Age is not a factor when it comes to identity crime; criminals prey and target those who are young and vulnerable. In the article “Girl scout leader jailed after guilty plea…,” Gant (2007) writes about a case of a 33 year old Girl Scout leader who used the identities of 15 of her scouts’ to commit identity theft. “She admitted to using her scouts’ identities to file for claims…and obtained more than $87,000 from the IRS…” (para 5) She got the girls social security information from “fraudulent medical release forms filled out before field trips.” (para 6) She faces up to 230 years in prison. Identity theft does not only affect adults but can also target our children and youth, so we must learn to protect not only ourselves but our families as well. With so many victims of identity theft every year, you may be asking yourself, well what is our government or law enforcement officials doing to protect us against identity theft? In the article “Congress gets a chance to combat identity theft,” Kristof (2007) writes that “A decade ago identity theft was almost unheard of,” (para 4) many of the problems today, are the mishandling of a persons social security information being carelessly “emblazoned on too many easily accessible documents.” (para 4) Congress is well aware of the misuse of social security numbers on forms and is trying to pass “the bill HR 3046, which would require the federal government to retool its systems to create different identifiers for each employee or customer. The bill would also prohibit businesses, schools, and government agencies from displaying the numbers on the internet, ID cards…” (para 9) Less social security numbers on common utility or company forms means less chances of identity theft, but this bill is not yet set in stone, because in order for this bill to become a law voters must step up and begin to support their identity rights. While bill HR 3046 is merely in the beginners’ stage, many companies today are taking minor steps and doing their part to minimize or protect their customers from identity theft. For example many bank companies today, are allowing their customers to bank virtually and completely on-line. Checking bank statements, casing checks, making deposits and many other common practices can all be done completely on-line. Many banks are also becoming paperless with all of their customers documents and statements, which are available to the customer via e-mail or on-line. This may seem small but the impact of minimizing a paper trail is huge when dealing with Identity theft. Other things that companies are doing to help fight against identity theft include: requiring customers to answer security questions. Security questions are being used as a safety measure for most utility companies, banks, schools, etc. These questions range from verifying the mothers maiden name, DOB, current address, or any other security question usually set up by the user account holder. Although answering some common questions is still not enough, it is still better than nothing, and security questions help prevent minor breaching of identity over the phone and/or on-line. There are so many companies that we deal with on a daily basis, and some might hold some or all of our critical information that can be used for identity theft, but there are many common practices that we can practice on a daily basis to help minimize your chances of becoming the next identity victim. We will begin to cover some of these common practices next:
Home Improvement Believe it or not many changes can be made around the house to minimize becoming the next victim of identity theft. A common practice around the household that can help fight against identity crime is by watching what you throw away in the garbage can. In the article “Police: Don’t throw your identity in the trash,” Hilliard (2007) writes that items such as “intact bank statements, pre-approved credit cards and medical records, if found by an identity thief, truly can turn one persons trash into another’s treasure.” (para 1) Currently there are five states that require a warrant to be able to look inside a person’s garbage, and those states are “California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Vermont.” (para 1) For all other states if you are throwing it away in the garbage, then those items are now free for the taking by anyone who whishes to dig threw your garbage.
Protect Yourself from Dumpster Divers
Shred or Burn any items such as pre-approved credit card, old bank statement, bills or anything that has any critical and personal information should be ran through a paper shredder or burnt to prevent throwing away wholesome information; to be on the safe side, at a minimum if it has your name and address on it “shred it.” Immediately shred any pre-approved credit cards that you receive over the mail and that you don’t intend to apply for; this tends to be a common item that we receive over the mail and many people ignore the hazards, and just throw these items away. Leaving a pre-approved credit card form in the garbage is like handing that thief the credit card yourself. Last but not least, do not leave your garbage cans out through the night; if possible take them out early in the morning.
Review Your Finances Regularly
Keeping track of your expenses daily or on a regular basis can help you monitor your accounts and immediately detect any unknown account activities. You know what you spent; if at any time you notice any unusual transactions, contact your local bank and ask them about it. If the transaction was unauthorized, then ask the bank to freeze your card and immediately replace it with a new one. Use software to help you keep track of your accounts such as Microsoft Money, or just use a transaction sheet to keep track of your day to day transactions. Knowing what is being spent day to day can help you detect and prevent any fraudulent transactions from occurring frequently.
Safeguard Your Personal Information It seems like everyday companies are asking us for more and more personal information over the telephone and/or counter. For these very reasons we must know what type of information we should be giving them and what not to. “Be cautious with your personal information. Avoid giving out your SSN…keep in mind that most business transactions do not require it.” (Michigan Chronicle, 2007)
- If you ever receive those phone calls from telemarketing companies, avoid giving them any personal information; if you are really interested in what they have to sell, then ask them to give you a contact number so that you can verify their service and then be able to call them personally to purchase their products. Safeguard your information over the phone and never give out your SSN over the telephone or e-mail.
- Minimize the amount of personal identification you carry along with you. Find a secure place to safeguard items such as birth certificates and social security cards; items such as these should never be carried around with you unless you need them for official purposes. If possible lock them up in a safe box. Only carry around necessary cards such as one ATM card and one credit card and secure those other cards that you don’t use on a regular basis. If you are carrying or have cards that you don’t use at all, then close out the accounts and shred the cards. Here are some more common practices from the article “Identity Theft,” written by the Michigan Chronicle (2007):
- Safeguard your cards. Only carry the ATM, debit, and credit cards you use. Report missing cards or checks immediately.
- Keep personal information off your checks. Never preprint your driver's license or Social Security number on your checks.
- Remove your Social Security number from your driver's license.
- Close any credit card, bank, or other financial accounts that have been opened fraudulently. (para 6)
Protect Your Computer and Protect Yourself On-Line You may think that your computer is a safe place to store your personal information, but once it is connected to the internet then it becomes vulnerable to identity theft. Hackers can hack into your computer and copy all the files that are on your hard drive, and then use any personal information from your computer to commit identity theft. There are many ways to protect yourself from hackers and safe guard your computer, here are some common things you can do:
- Do not store any personal information onto your computer, meaning credit card information, bank statements, SSN, etc. Items such as statements or credit information should be printed out and then deleted immediately from your computer.
- Maintain software such as virus protection, firewall, spam and pop-up blocker up to date.
Here are a few others from the article “Identity Theft:”
- Use strong passwords with a combination of uppercase, lowercase, and symbols. Change your passwords periodically, and always change pre-assigned passwords.
- Clear out cookies and other tracking data on your PC regularly.
- Consider using disposable email accounts when filling out forms on the Web. There are many companies that offer free email accounts.
- Do not enter sweepstakes or contests. Most are designed to capture your personal information and sell it to third parties. (Michigan Chronicle, 2007) E-mails continue to be a big factor in identity theft; people tend to see them as a good source for communication, while an identity thief sees them as an opportunity to commit theft. When e-mails are used to commit identity theft, these sorts of mails are referred to as “phishing” e-mails. These types of e-mails tend to come in bulks and sometimes a single identity thief can send out over one million e-mails, in an attempt to lure a victim or victims. The reason that these e-mails seem so appealing is because some may come in a form of a bank institution, or credible financial institution and also tend to offer a sweepstakes prize. “The logic behind every phishing campaign is that someone, somewhere, will always take the bait.” (Brody, 2007) Here are some ways to protect you:
- Be cautious and carefully look over who is sending you that e-mail; if you do not recognize the person or institution then don’t open it. If you recognize the institution and they are asking you for any personal information, call the company first and verify that e-mail, and don’t ever give any personal information over the internet.
Protect Your Family As stated earlier identity theft has no age limit, it can happen at any time and to anyone that is not prepared and/or vulnerable. According to the article “ID Theft: 16 Ways to Protect Yourself,” writers Goebel and Kinney (2007) write that “last year, 400,000 children had their identity stolen.” (para 17) Many of these incidents were related to children giving out personal information over the internet. Some warning signs may be if your child begins to receive junk mail in the postal box. Here are some precaution measures:
- “When requesting a personal credit history, also check for credit reports on the children.” (para 17)
- Protect your children and warn them about the dangers of giving out any personal information over the internet.
Some Extra Protection There is a method that makes it almost impossible for identity thieves to use your identity to open up any new accounts; it’s called a credit freeze. “A credit freeze bars lenders and others from reviewing your credit history, making it almost impossible for criminals to open up new accounts in your name.” (Block, 2007) This is simply done by contacting the three reporting agencies and placing a freeze on your credit.
If You Become a Victim or Think That You May Have Identity can strike at any moment and at any time, unfortunately most of the time it is by surprise, and if you become a victim then you may not even notice or become aware that it is happening to you until there has been a loss of funds an/or you receive pass due bills on unfamiliar accounts that were opened in your name. The Federal Trades Commission (FTC) recommends doing the following immediately after you suspect fraud:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This can be done by contacting one of the three major consumer reporting companies: o Equifax: 800-525-6285 o Experian: 888-Experian o TransUnion: 800-680-7289
After reporting a fraud alert to one of these consumer reporting companies, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports from all three reporting companies.
- Close all accounts that have been breeched or opened fraudulent. Contact the creditor directly and ask them what their policies are on handling identity alerts, and work closely with them to correct the matter. Make sure to keep a copy of all documentations pertaining to that fraudulent account.
- File a police report; this is important especially when creditors request a police report to file with your fraud alert.
- Report it to the FTC; The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the market place and to provide information to help consumer’s spot, stop, and avoid them. o Online: ftc.gov/idtheft o Phone: 877-ID-THEFT
Identity crime can have a long lasting negative impact in your life, your finances, and your credit. Minimize your paper trail, safeguard your personal information, shred any documents that contain your personal information prior to throwing them in the garbage, and monitor your accounts regularly; these common practices can help you stay a step ahead of identity thieves, and remember if you suspect any theft activity, act fast and close those accounts. Learning how to protect you and your family by changing common practices in the household, work area, or when you’re out shopping can greatly minimize your chance of becoming the next victim of identity theft.

Reference
Block, S. (2007). Your Money: Identity theft’s a big pain, but protecting yourself needn’t be. Retrieved December 3, 2007, from http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/block/2007-02-05-id-theft_x.htm
Brody, R., Mulig, E., Kimball, V. (2007). PHISHING, PHARMING AND IDENTITY THEFT. Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal, 11(3), 43-56. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Accounting & Tax Periodicals database. (Document ID: 1300255141).
Federal Trade Commisssion (FTC). (2007). About Identity Theft. Retrieved December 2, 2007, from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identity-theft.html
Gant, A. (2007). Girl Scout leader jailed after guilty plea: Attorney: Holly Barnes tried to cash one of her fraudulent checks two days before hearing. McClatchy - Tribune Business News, (17). Retrieved November 26, 2007, from Business Dateline database. (Document ID: 1375698191).
Goebel, K., Kinney, J. (2006). ID Theft: 16 Ways to Protect Yourself. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 98(2), 59-60. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from Wilson Education Abstracts database. (Document ID: 1033191401).
Hilliard, D. (2007). Police: Don't throw your identity in the trash. McClatchy - Tribune Business News, pg 17. Retrieved November 26, 2007, from Business Dateline database. (Document ID: 1375588551).
Identity Theft Resource Center. (2007). Facts and Statistics. Retrieved December 7, 2007, from http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/m_facts/Facts_and_Statistics.shtml
Kristof, K. (2007). PERSONAL FINANCE; Congress gets a chance to combat identity theft :[HOME EDITION]. Los Angeles Times,p. C.8. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Los Angeles Times database. (Document ID: 1311620251).
Michigan Chronicle. (2007). Identity Theft.,p. B.1. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from ProQuest Newsstand database. (Document ID: 1301800471).
Ramaswamy, V. 2006). Identity-Theft Toolkit. The CPA Journal, 76(10), 66-70. Retrieved December 7, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1155664481).

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...head: IDENTITY THEFT: IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE Identity Theft: In More Ways than One Justin S. Evangelist CMRJ 306 D002 Criminal Investigation American Military University Identity Theft: In More Ways than One We have all watched the news; we have all heard the stories. It’s on commercials and television shows. Identity theft is sweeping across the nation and it something we should all take very seriously. Identity theft is a form of fraud or taking away someone else’s identity in order to gain something, usually financial means (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo & Taylor, 2009). The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identity stole each year, resulting in over 50 billion dollars of financial loss (Mercuri, 2006). There are several different forms of identity fraud, several which not everyone has heard of. The three main types of identity theft consist of criminal identity theft, medical identity theft and child identity theft. Criminal identity theft occurs when a victim’s name, address, and other personal details are given to law enforcement officials during the commission of a crime. The victim is then mistakenly arrested (Mercuri, 2006). Often times, the imposter has obtained some sort of tangible, personal information from the victim, usually a driver’s license. Once the name of an innocent identity theft victim is assigned to the criminal act of the true perpetrator, it can be very difficult for the identity......

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Identity Theft

...Abstract Culprits of identity theft are the modern day con artists that are able to convince and persuade people out of their money by promising their victims a portion of wealth which will never come to be. This paper will describe what is classified as identity theft, how people become victims of this crime and how people can avoid being becoming a victim to this popular means of deception in the electronic world. On the average one hundred thousand people are affected by identity theft in the United States per year and over two billion dollars in revenue is stolen as shown in the surveys that were conducted in 2003 -2006 (Anderson, Durbin & Salinger). Because of this threat the consumer becomes skeptical of online transactions which cause loss of business to many retailers as they are based solely on internet sales. For the retailer to make sure that the consumer is protected from fraudulent transactions and the possibility of their personal information to be at risk of being intercepted by others, the retailers need to incorporate special systems onto their site and have special programs that could make the purchasing of items from their business complicated for the consumer and will also raise the price of the goods to offset their loss on the security measures. The way people are committing the crimes of identity theft are only limited by the imagination of the person that commits these types of crimes. The source can be from......

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Identity Theft

...Identity is yours and only yours “But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of what not enriches him and makes me poor indeed” --- Shakespeare Crimes are not always on the rise; with tough and stringent laws and hard work of excellent law enforcement agencies the rate of crime can always be controlled. For example the crime rate in the New York City went down considerably in the beginning of this decade, with the introduction of new policies by the new government. There is one type of crime, which has consistently grown every year in the last decade, and also has been the fastest growing crime. It is a neither gun crimes nor the use and abuse of certain drug; it is identity theft. When searched for fastest growing crime on google.com the unanimous answer turned out to be identity theft. This crime basically proves that there is no doubt in the fact that there is something going wrong when dealing with identity theft. It seems like there is a piece of the puzzle which is missing. The main focus of this paper is to put some light on the issues concerning with identity theft, how it takes place in various manners and what are the current laws in place to act against identity theft. The role of credit card companies to deal with identity theft is also mentioned. Identity theft and identity fraud are words used to refer to all degrees of crime in which someone wrong fully acquires and exploit individual private information in numerous ways that engage scam or......

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Identity Theft

...The Two Mrs. Jane Does Diana Sours DeVry University The Two Mrs. Jane Does Identity theft, it can and will catch you off guard if you are not careful with your information, and it can have a devastating effect. “Another pre-screened credit offer?” thought Mrs. Jane Doe, as she walked back up to her house from checking her mail. She quickly realized that was not the case at all, as she opened the “offer” from Visa. Instead, what she was staring at was a bill addressed to her, that she had no recollection of making. She was now faced with the probability of being a victim of identity theft. Identity theft, in short, is using someone else’s personal information for one’s own financial gain. Identity theft laws need to be improved because this crime costs businesses money, costs credit card companies money, and financially hurts ordinary consumers. In 2006, “U.S. companies average identity theft-related costs of $182 per compromised record. While that figure averaged $660,000 per company in notification expenses and indirect costs, the total estimate, including lost business, tops $2.5 million. This staggering amount also includes costs and fees associated with legal expenses, fines, investigation, auditing, class action litigation, public relations damage control, and setting up monitoring, remediation practices, and a dedicated customer support phone number.” (Identitytheft.lifetips.com, 2014) Some of this cost is passed along to the credit card companies in the form of higher...

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