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Introduction

Vacca (2003) defines identity crime as a type of crime in which someone uses illegal means to obtain information regarding another person for economic gain in a way that involves fraud and deception. According to the United States Department of Justice, identity fraud commonly involves personal data like one’s social security number, bank account or credit card number, and any other valuable data than can be used to identify a person. Hayward (2004) notes that the greatest challenge in curbing identity crime is the fact that it is normally the victim who has to incur the resulting cost.

According to Obringer (2011), the vise is very common in the USA and Canada where people have increasingly used others’ details to withdraw money from their bank accounts. The worst form of this type of crime happens in a situation where one takes over the identity of another. In such cases the victim’s details may be used by the heckler to run huge debts and commit crimes. Apart from the financial losses, the sufferers always have to incur other costs because of having to seek to regain their reputation by correcting any wrong information spread about them by the criminal.

The History of Identity Theft

Finklea (2010) noted that the identity theft has been experienced for decades now. He explains that contrary to the notion that the crime has resulted from the advancement in technology, what the technology has done was I allowed the transformation of what had been in existence. The criminals of the crime are increasingly taking advantage of every relevant new technology, such as that of ATMs and the World Wide Web, to carry out illegal transactions.

Finklea (2010) has noted that the original form of identity theft was simply the stealing of another person’s identification. It involved stealing one’s passport or the social security card. This went on until the year 1950s when the use of credit card was invented. However, even during this time, one could only obtain a credit card by applying for it in person. The process also required a photographic identification. The exceptions to these requirements were limited and would only be where a customer is known by his/her bank manager on personal basis. With these conditions, it was not easy for one to carry out the identity theft. The incidents were, therefore, far much less than what is experienced today.

Finklea (2010) has also noted that the other reason for the low identity theft in the earlier days was the use of credit card which had not so much financial information. According to Scam Watch (2011), the rate of identity theft majorly began to rise in the early 1980s when the FICO system of credit scoring was developed. It was a system of rating the credibility of a person. It was supplied in the form of a report that also contained private personal and financial information. This advancement made it possible for the identity criminals to obtain the victim’s bank account and credit card account.

Finally, Sullivan (2004) noted that the increase and further complication of the crime came with the automation of both, credit card and banking transactions. These technological advancements made it easier to illegally obtain another person’s information. He explained that in the today’s generation, a credit card is one of the documents used to verifying a person’s identity. This has made it easy for the criminals to simply present the credit cards and gets access to the credit card accounts of the victims. It is even possible for the victims to open up a new credit card accounts and run up charges on the victims. With such trends, the amount of cases of identity theft reported has always been on the rise each year. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission in the year 2003, an estimated number of 10 million people were found to have suffered from the vice during the previous year in the United States.

Measure for Protection of One’s Self from Identity Theft

Pope (2004) in his book Protecting Yourself from an Unprotected World has emphasized the need for people to take various measures to protect themselves from being victims of the crime. According to Pope, people should never keep their identification and financial information in one place. He has also condemned the practice of people writing down their personal identification number anywhere. Sullivan (2004) has contributed to the same noting that people should keep their internet passwords and member ID information secret. This should be done especially if such password and the ID are used by the owner to access any kind of financial site.

Obringer (2011), noting the current technological advancement, has won that anyone dealing with any payment through the internet should only use secure sites. He describes the secure sites as those that are called https://. He warns that websites without the protection (i.e. http//:) can easily make one loose vital personal information to scrupulous dealers.

Hayward (2003) has also noted that one should never respond to emails or snail mails that request personal information such as password or PIN numbers. Other requests that should be avoided are that of the social security number or employee identification number. He explained that such numbers can be used to create bogus credit cards, as well as giving other people the access to one’s personal information.

One should also be sure of the place in which he/she keeps such documents as credit cards and bank statements at all times. According to Sullivan (2004), such documents should always be kept with the owner or strictly be put under lock and key. This should also be done for such documents as birth certificate and the social insurance card. Another place to watch is one’s mailbox which should also always be under lock and key. This can help prevent thieves from stealing documents such as the pre-approved credit cards, which can successfully be used to steal his/her identity.

In contributing to this issue, Vacca (2003) notes that it is also important for the individuals to be very cautious on the way in which they handle their wallets, especially if this is where they keep such documents as credit cards. According to him, one should avoid carrying social security card, passport or birth certificate in the wallet or even avoid having them whenever their use is not anticipated. Obringer (2011) has added that it is also advisable for one to have several copies of the documents to make canceling easier in case the wallet is stolen. Obringer (2011) has also warned that any credit card that is no longer in use should be destroyed immediately.  

Types of Identity Crime

Obringer (2011) has identified financial fraud as the major type of identity crime. He notes that financial gain is the major reason why people commit crime. According to him, the majority of the criminals involved in the identity theft are those seeking to benefit financially. He notes that this is the reason behind the increasing rate of such kinds of frauds as bank fraud, credit card fraud, and computer and telecommunication fraud. He also attributes it to the increasingly high number of identity theft cases in the nations which embrace capitalism. He noted that in the US alone, a total of 25 types of financial identity frauds have been identified. These crimes are reportedly being investigated by the country’s Secret Service.

One’s identity might also be stolen to help commit a criminal activity. This is a type of an identity fraud that involves taking on the identity of another person and using it to enable the criminal commit a crime. Such crimes as targeted by this group of criminals include the need to enter a country illegally, and to obtain special permits. The criminals may use another person’s identity when carrying out such crimes as computer and cyber crimes, drug trafficking, or even money laundering (Obringer, 2011).

Case Study: Stealing and Use of the Credit Card

There are many ways in which the victims can obtain another person’s credit card number other than just having to get the real card. An example is a case where, having eaten in a restaurant and paying with the credit card, the owner leaves a copy of the credit card receipt. Many of such receipts also contain the credit card numbers printed on them. It is even worse in a case where they are signed because that leaves one’s name which can carefully be copied. This can allow identity theft to be done against an individual in a very simple way. It is also advisable for people with credit cards to always check on their credit card statements to ensure that the charges are up to date (Sullivan, 2004).

Credit card fraud as a form of identity theft has been made very simple with today’s technologies. Apart from the already mentioned ways in this paper, it can also occur when ones pre-approved credit card offer is obtained by the fraudulent dealers. In such a case, these dealers either get the card out of the mail box or scan it. They then mail the new copy in with a new address and start spending on the victim’s name. This may be hidden from the real owner of the credit card until the credit card company tracks the happenings and demands for payments from him/her. With a person’s name, social security number and date of birth, it is easy for such dealers to obtain loans from bank accounts of the owner of the card, open new bank accounts and even buy properties like plots (Obringer, 2011).

Accessing Personal Information

Obringer (2011) noted that there are many possible sources where the identity fraudulent dealers can obtain the information about the victims from. These include: dumpster diving, information removed from one’s employers, financial lenders and/or landlord’s files. Information can also be found from online or offline databases by those who hack into commercial websites. Other avenues may include the publicly available information that can be accessed by any person. These may include public records like the drivers license, real estate records and professional certifications. Such documents are open to inspection by the public.

Conclusion

In conclusion, identity theft is real and lives with us everywhere we go. The vice is expected to even increase with the advancement in technology. It, therefore, calls for both, the policy makers and the individuals themselves to device and practice measures aimed at preventing those involved in the business from getting access to other’s information

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