The term “identity term” conjures an image of stolen identities, security breaches, fake credit cards, and ransomware plaguing your laptops/phones. And to a large extent these images hold true, but the stark reality is further elaborated with harrowing stories as well as tarnished reputations.
To familiarize everybody with the topic of “identity theft”, we first need to understand that it has been present in the society since ancient times. Though, at that point in time it was just simple impersonation and assumption of the victim’s identity. But, the advent of internet and advancement of technology which has given us the ease of handling our finances, healthcare, insurances, etc. now stand jeopardized due to various scammers and spyware.
As we all can agree that stories are way more powerful and influential or we can say are more effective when we want to make our point in an argument. So to elucidate the seriousness of the issue we want to give real life examples – “Kenneth Gibson is a 47-year-old former IT (Information Technology) professional from Reno, NV. Between 2012 and 2017, he was working for a large company where he had access to the Personally Identifiable Information of thousands of employees and customers.
During this time, Gibson methodically stole data from his employer until the day he left the company. He then set up eight computers to run an automatic script of the victims’ information to open fraudulent accounts and transfer money. This automated system ran 24/7.
Over time Gibson opened up about 8,000 unauthorized PayPal accounts with the stolen identities. He would then apply for, and open, credit accounts linked to those PayPal accounts, withdrawing money via cash advances. The stolen funds enabled Gibson and his family to live lavishly. He bought a boat, travelled extensively, and was allegedly a frequent gambler. By moving the money in many small increments, he was able to avoid detection for years. But, like many criminals, Gibson made a critical mistake that led to his downfall.”
In the above case, some of the company employees remained unaware that their identities have been stolen and that too by someone who had worked in their company and was a known person. Kenneth Gibson was sentenced to four years in jail and three years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service.
There are millions of examples similar to that the one given above. Some of them involve retired old people or innocent children, as they are more vulnerable to situations such as these and most of the times oblivious to any ongoing scam that might be taking place in their names or their bank accounts being emptied slowly. To move further, we must understand the meaning of the term “Identity Theft” in all its colourful sense and dynamic nature throughout the world. So, what do we mean by the phrase Identity Theft?
“Identity theft is the unauthorized collection of personal information and its subsequent use for criminal reasons such as to open credit cards and bank accounts, redirect mail, set up cell phone service, rent vehicles and even get a job. These actions can mean severe consequences for the victim, who will be left with bills, charges and a damaged credit score.” Identity theft is defined as a crime where “an individual appropriates another’s name, address, social security number, or other identifying information to commit fraud.”
The main purpose of this very research is to make people aware of the steadily growing phenomenon of stealing identities and how it further illustrates its impacts on the victims’ life as well as personality. Also, this paper elucidates how identity theft works, what are the current statistics around the world as well as in India, and what are the possible solutions to this problem.
In today does world of increasing competition, and fluctuating employment opportunities constitute two important reasons for people to resort to a variety of “methods” to put food on the table for their families or to just get some decent healthcare facilities. And sometimes it is the poorer section of the society trying to impersonate someone else or stealing someone else’s identity to get the benefits they are deprived of. However, a good chunk of crimes relating to identity thefts are done in semblance that to constitute revenge or just to extract finances or to intentionally creating havoc in the said victim’s life.
Financial identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personally identifiable information (PII) for financial gain. A simple example is someone accessing your bank account by stealing your debit card information and PIN. A more sophisticated version of the crime would be when a fraudster uses your PII to add their name to one of your financial accounts; something called an “account takeover.”
This type of identity theft is considered as one of the most serious ones as it can compromise the victims’ health insurances or their medical information can be misused to get medical medicines and drugs by someone who fraudulently acquires the identity. It usually occurs when someone tries to use the name, birth date or any relevant account or identity proof number to receive health coverage and medicines while pretending to be that person.
As it is clearly evident, stealing identities of other people back in the day was more of a physical job (killing the person or kidnapping the person for that particular duration and assuming his/her identity). In olden times majority of the times it was plain murder of the said victim. It is also very interesting to note that half of these murders and their identities being stolen were not motivated by some financial or revenge motive, but to acquire new identity and start afresh. The fear and terror of mafia bosses (e.g. Pablo Escobar or Capone) and drug cartels was one of main elements that prompted people to assume new identities and become the physical persona to escape their wrath and plausible death at their hands.
The Telephones made it even easier to get somebody’s identity. They were one of the first technological advanced gadgets to be used in this area. For example, the thief would call some random person (the victim) and tell them how they won a lucky lottery or a gift voucher and would fish out personal information such as birth date or credit card numbers or bank account details, etc. Though now the main player is the internet, there are still cases of identity fraud through telephone, which totally account for about at least 7%-8% of current identity theft cases.
Another popular way of getting hold of somebody’s identity was the act famously termed as “Dumpster Diving” (the phrase started doing rounds around 1980’s). Dumpster Diving can be defined as a layman lingo for “the salvaging of waste, money, identity sources like credit cards or personal information in large commercial, residential, industrial and construction containers to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may prove useful to the picker.
It is not confined to dumpsters specifically, and may cover standard household waste containers, curb sides, landfills or small dumps” . Most of the times the victims did not even consider the trash to an important source for thieves to steal their personal information. As the years progressed and awareness dawned on the innocent public, they started being more careful and alert while disposing any material or paper or document containing even the slightest of their personal details.