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Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Essay on Identity Theft - How to Avoid being Victimized by Identity theft
Identity Theft is a generic term that is used to describe all types of crime in which a person wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Identity theft is always prelude to the commission of other crimes such as credit card fraud, mortgage fraud or check fraud. Criminals usually steal other person’s personal identifying information such as name, social security number, date of birth and bank account number for the purpose of taking over existing accounts, creating new accounts in the name of the victim. Criminals may even make money out of the personal information by selling them online to the highest bidder. What makes this crime very difficult is that victims often do not know that they have been victimized by identity thieves until their credit card has been denied by their credit card providers or they have received a notice from a creditor seeking payment for a debt.
This topic was chosen because it is unlike an ordinary crime. These crimes may appear to be harmless for most of people. Ordinarily, nobody becomes injured or killed in identity theft. There is also no threat or violence inflicted against the victims. No property is destroyed or ravaged. As a result, comparing identity theft to other crimes such as terrorism or murder, there are perceptions that these activities are harmless. Some may even think that these activities are not crimes. Or, even if there is a law against it, the punishment involved is not serious.
While these activities may appear to be harmless, the perpetrators of this crime may derive thousands of dollars if not millions from their operations. What may appear to be harmless for some, has the effect of causing serious anxiety, financial troubles and destroyed reputation for the victims. According to President Bush when he signed the law “Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act,” the losses are not measured only in dollars. An identity thief can steal the victim's financial reputation. Running up bills on credit card accounts that the victim never knew existed, the criminal can quickly damage a person's lifelong efforts to build and maintain a good credit rating. Repairing the damage can take months or years" (Charles Montaldo, 2004, p.1)
In addition, in 2001 the Federal Trade Commission has already attempted to educate consumers by enumerating a list of risks to help identify and prevent identity theft. These behaviors include: “finding out how information will be used before you reveal it to others; paying attention to credit card billing cycles; guarding your mail from theft; placing strong passwords on accounts and credit cards; minimizing the number of cards carried in your wallet; minimizing amount of information disclosed; keeping personal information in a safe place; protecting social security numbers; and ordering credit reports annually.” Recent research however suggests that there is still low awareness among the people on how to manage and protect their personal information (George R. Milne, 2003, p.3. As a result, the level of risk of victimization for identity theft is high among these individuals. This essay seeks to discuss the different ways by which identity theft is committed and the ways by which identity theft can be avoided.
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