There are countless illegal activities that affect our lives. Most of them we can protect ourselves against more because it is easier for us to become aware that something is missing. I believe it is easier to protect ourselves against Illegal activities such as robbery, burglary than against scams and identity theft. I believe that scams and identity theft are in a way more dangerous than regular acts of thievery, robbery and burglary.
They are harder to uncover, sometimes people go years without ever knowing that somebody else is using their identity, or some stranger is digitally stealing their funds. There are many different categories of identity theft that affects us. The most common ones according to LifeLock, an American identity theft protection company, are employment-or tax-related fraud, credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, loan or lease fraud and government documents or benefits fraud. Also in my opinion scams and identity theft are harder to uncover. They are growing exponentially and getting to a point where we have to force our government to do better to protect us.
I think that identity theft and scams are more dangerous because they are harder to uncover. If someone breaks into my house, I will know that something is missing as soon as I get home. The same applies to any of my physical possessions, if somebody robs me it wont take long for me to realize that something is missing. Meanwhile the majority of cases of identity theft happen in ways that makes it harder for the person being affected to find out. For instance in the case of employment or tax related fraud, credit card fraud, bank fraud, bank documents or benefits fraud, they all happen in subtle ways.
The person being affected often doesn’t know that he or she is being defrauded. A friend of mine is currently the victim of identity theft. More specifically someone else is using his social security number to gain employment, and possibly engaging in other illegal and dangerous behaviors. My friend lives here in New York and works in Manhattan. His identity had been stolen for months and he didn’t find that out until recently when he ordered a copy of his credit report. As a result he had to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, as well as filing a police report. To this day he is not in the clear and now have to monitor his credit report to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
I have personally been a victim of a scam over the Internet. I looked up apple’s customer service number because I had some issues with my phone and needed a replacement. The number I ended up calling was in fact not apple customer service. I requested that they call me back using the apple customer service number listed on the company’s website. I wanted to make sure that I was in fact in contact with apple. The scamers with the help of some software, were in fact able to generate the number as listed on the website to called me back. As a result I trusted them and provided my credit card information. They charged me; I had to deactivate my credit card, and ended up filing a claim with my bank to get my money back. Thus showing how problematic identity theft and scams have become over years.
Now there are many different categories of Identity theft and scams, which we have to protect ourselves against. The first and most common case of identity theft in the USA according to the Federal trade Commission is Employment or tax-related fraud. This particular type of fraud, which is when a criminal uses someone else’s Social Security number and other personal information to gain employment or to file an income tax return, accounts for 34% of all identity theft according to the FTC. This is particularly something that every single citizen has to worry about because our social security number is supposed to be unique to us and is extremely important to our financials.
According to the FTC, credit card fraud accounts for 33% of identity theft. Credit card frauds happen when a thief uses another person’s credit card or credit card number to commit fraudulent transactions. Nowadays there are many ways for a thief to steal credit card information. They do it by looking over people’s shoulders while they are using their card at a store or anywhere else.
Thieves gets a lot of our credit cards numbers at gas stations by using what is called a skimmer. They steal our cards info online when we have to input our credit card information when making a purchase or subscribing to a service. Due to the Googlization of everything, the expansion of the Internet, as well as how all media provides a way to subscribe to their services online, it has made it more common for thieves to steal peoples credit card information.
Phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, loan or lease fraud and government documents or benefits fraud accounts for 13%, 12%, 7% and 7% respectively. We should all be aware and cautious against all those various types of frauds.
In the case of loan or lease fraud, a thief obtain a loan or lease under somebody else personal information. In this case the person who is being robbed is responsible to pay off that loan or lease when in fact he/she isn’t benefiting from what the lease or loan was taken. The victim may not even be able to pay off that loan or lease, which could put him/her in difficult financial position and even negatively affect the person’s credit. There are countless ways that people’s personal information is being robbed; we just have to be as careful as we can when handling our personal information.
There have been many research regarding identity theft and scams over the years. All of them show that these problems are growing and become more complex. According to Javelin Strategy & Research there were 16.7 millions victims of identity fraud. The same research claims that $16.8 billion was stolen in 2017, which represents a 12 percent increase from 2016. Furthermore 30 percent of U.S. consumers were notified of a data breach according to the same research.
Scams on the other hand can be described as Internet fraud. According to the FBI website there are several high profile methods that we must all be aware of. Those methods are Business E-Mail Compromise, Data breach, Denial of Service, E-mail Account Compromise (EAC), Malware/Scareware, Phishing/Spoofing and Ransomware. The Internet offers us a world of possibilities, but with all those possibilities comes a lot of danger. Thus we should always be careful when using it and educate ourselves about what and what not to do when we are on it.
All these matters are influenced by the fact that almost everything is now done digitally. We pretty much do everything online, we use our personal information, credit cards, because it is convenient to do so. I think the concept of Googlization of everything is a great example of why identity theft and scams have become such a big problem. Hackers are constantly creating fake websites, ads, and business online to get people to enter their information thinking they are doing legitimate business when in fact they are not.
Such increase has prompted the financial industry as well as the government to take action. The financial industry for instance has made several changes in the ways Americans use debit and credit cards. They changed the fact that we used to swipe our cards to now inserting them, which is supposed to make things safer. Companies are spending a lot of money to protect their customers, as well as their staff member’s personal information. I work for a company that won’t accept credit cards from its customers over the phone. If a customer sends an email that contains credit card information, the system will automatically erase the credit card number from the email.
Finally our system allows us to turn the credit card numbers into what we call token numbers, which makes it impossible to use the token for any purpose other than what it was created. The government on the other hand has made identity theft a federal crime in 1998 by passing the Identity theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. That law passed by Congress made identity theft a separate crime against the individual whose identity was stolen and credit destroyed, it established a Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it increased criminal penalties for identity theft and fraud to up to 15 years imprisonment and substantial fines. We can clearly see an effort by the financial industry as well the government to discourage people from committing those types of crimes.