With the rise and spread of globalisation, identity fraud has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the world reports the Australian government sponsored National Crime Prevention Program
“The misuse of false or stolen identities underpins terrorist and criminal activity” states the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department.
“ It also undermines border and citizenship controls and efforts to combat the financing of crime and terrorism”.
International e-criminals have exploited the rapid change in internet access, telecommunications and technology. Simultaneously, Market deregulation has challenged the role of national boundaries and been a problem for regulators.
The criminals stored much of their data on computer servers in Latvia and Ukraine, and purchased blank debit and credit cards from confederates in China, which they imprinted with some of the stolen numbers for use in cash machines, investigators say.
[Global Trail of an Online Crime Ring – NYTimes.com
The scope of the problem was revealed in August 2009 when a former US government informant and two unnamed Russians were indicted for 130 million credit and debit card numbers.
The five corporate data breaches effected Heartland Payment Systems and retail chains 7-Eleven Inc and Hannaford Brothers Co between 2006 and 2008.
So if the big guys can’t protect your card details, what hope have you of protecting your digital identity?
The research body Gartner, stated that from mid-2005 until mid-2006, about 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft related up over 50 percent from the 9.9 million in 2003.
Also, the Timesonline revealed that four million British identities are up for sale on the internet.
“Highly sensitive financial information, including credit card details, bank account numbers, telephone numbers and even PINs are available to the highest bidder” states the times.
Identity fraud in Australia has been estimated at $1.1 billion for 2001-02. However, this figure does not take into account the non-financial costs to organizations or victims, nor the amount of undetected identity fraud.
Yet According to ID-Theft Protect 90% of people do not check all the transactions on their bank or credit card statements.
“Internet users in Britain are more likely to fall victim to identity theft than their peers elsewhere in Europe and North America. In a recent survey of 6,000 online shoppers in six countries by PayPal and Ipsos Research, 14% of respondents in Britain said that they have had their identities stolen online, compared with only 3% in Germany.”
– Where your identity is more likely to be stolen- Online fraud – The Economist
Types of Identity Theft
Financial identity theft
- The Victims account is accessed by a criminal who obtains unauthorized access details to your account and undertakes financial transaction in your name.
- A new account is created using false or a stolen identity. With a stolen ID a criminal may exploit the good someone’s good credit history to obtain funds or to obtain a checking account.
A criminal who is ‘on the run’ from police may impersonate another person to conceal their true identity. This may continue for undetected for years and may not involve financial fraud. It is not in the criminals interest for the false ID to gain police attention.
A variation called Criminal Identity Theft occurs when a criminal, perhaps charged by police, identifies himself under the assumed identity. A victim then find that their drivers license has been revoked, a warrant has been issued in their name or they fail a background check by performed by an employer.
This can cause a lot of long term problem. Not only do you need to clear identity from any false information, you may find you have an incorrect criminal record. Court records may have to expunged. Even after police and court records are corrected police may record your identity in case of false aliases. Data aggregators, organization like Acxiom and ChoicePoint that complie public record data for resale may still have incorrect data. This can result in backgroud checks giving false information.
Synthetic identity theft
Synthetic Identity Theft is the complete or partial fabrication of an ID.Commonly a real social security or credit card number are combined with the name and birthdate of someone else.
Medical identity theft
Medical identity theft occurs medical service or products are purchases using a false ID.
“Medical identity theft frequently results in erroneous entries being put into existing medical records, and can involve the creation of fictitious medical records in the victim’s name” states the site www.fightidentitytheft.com
Social networking sites as a source of identity Fraud
The social network site Tagged was accused of sending e-mails to people saying that members of the site had tagged them in photos that did not exist. The state of New York, Office of the Attorney General alleges Tagged then raided their private accounts.
“This company stole the address books and identities of millions of people,” New York’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo said.
“Consumers had their privacy invaded and were forced into the embarrassing position of having to apologize to all their e-mail contacts for Tagged’s unethical – and illegal – behavior. This very virulent form of spam is the online equivalent of breaking into a home, stealing address books and sending phony mail to all of an individual’s personal contacts. We would never accept this behavior in the real world, and we cannot accept it online.”
Mr Coumo intends to sue the company “for deceptive e-mail marketing practices and invasion of privacy”.
Tagged CEO Greg Tseng stated “Simply put, it was too easy for people to quickly go through the registration process and unintentionally invite all their contacts.” He stated that “some complained that our invitation confirmation language was confusing” and that the company ‘hit the pause button’ on the testing the new registration process.
There is nothing new in sites asking you to invite your friends. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook do it all the time. Tagged is accused of deceptive marketing because there were no tagged images .
This technique has been used to more sinister effect. I was tricked into signing into what I believed was my web server account. I was then bombarded by several hundred megabytes of returned email messages for an email I had allegedly been sending.
Besides hurting my pride, it sorted out who my real friends were.
Giving away your identity is like handing over your credit card to a stranger.
What about your email? Identity Theft Expert, Robert Siciliano warns advises you be convinced a company is 100% legitimate before you hand over your login credentials.
“When you have web based cloud accounts that contain email and also have proprietary documents or files within that account never give that data to any company” he said.
- As discussed in What to Do If Your Credit Card Is Stolen? if you are effected immediately contact your credit and ID card providers.
- In the United States you follow the instructions for your state at consumersunion.org. Have your credit card frozen or obtain a “security freeze.” This will prevent new accounts from being opened in your name.
- You may consider an Identity Protection service like Intelius Identity Theft Protection.
- Monitor the benefits claimed on your service accounts and your health insurance providers.
- Correct erroneous and false information in your file
- Keep an eye on your credit report.