Identity Theft Using the Knowledge Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Spyware runs automatically without the user's knowledge and transmits vital information. Spyware can also record your keystrokes and one might end up revealing all usernames, passwords and other details to identity thieves. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (Schwabach, 2005)

Identity thieves have also found novel ways to steal and use identities. For instance, cyber criminals recently hacked Facebook, a popular social networking site, and changed a user's page asking people to help him. Even though the matter was resolved with the help of Facebook; the fact remains that identity theft can have far-reaching and diverse consequences. (Caroll, 2009) the damage caused by identity theft can take years to be rectified. The consequences of the fraudulent practices initiated by the identity thief can continue to reach the victim and credit companies long after the thief has been apprehended and the abuse of the victim's identity stopped. Therefore, consumers must take utmost precautions to protect their identities at all costs. (Schwabach, 2005)

An identity theft can dog a person for the rest of his life and reclaiming one's life can be an uphill task. As they say, "prevention is better than cure." Prevention of identity theft just requires a few extra precautions while dealing with one's personal data and belongings. In most cases, it is the irresponsibility of victims that results in their identities being stolen. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008)

With identity theft becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S., here are a list of preventive steps that consumers can take to protect themselves:

(i) Check credit reports: one must make it a habit to request for a copy of credit report annually. The credit report gives information whether somebody else has misused your credit account or changed your billing address. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

(ii) Secure your password and PINs: Password and PINs are extremely important and utmost precaution should be taken that no one has access to them. Writing them down or putting those in a hidden file are very dangerous habits. Passwords should be chosen in a way that is difficult for people to guess them. Having spouse's or child's name as a password, or using your birth date can be extremely foolish as these are the first things that an identity thief may try. It is better to have a random combination of alphabets and numbers which can be remembered but hard to guess. While using passwords or PINs, it is better to make sure nobody is looking over your shoulder. Identity thieves often observe their victims over a long time noting keystrokes, etc. It is a good habit to change your passwords periodically and not to use the same password everywhere. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

(iii) Protect credit cards: one should make it a habit to sign new cards immediately upon receipt and treat them as one would treat cash because that is what they actually are. One should not write down the PIN on the card itself. Carry only those cards that are likely to be used. After making a purchase, one should always check that the card is actually yours. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

(iv) Protect mail: In case one is going out of town, it would be a good idea to notify the post office to hold the mail till one comes back. It is better not to choose pre-approved credit offers. One should not be so daft as to write down one's social security number or credit card number on the outer part of an envelope or on a postcard. In case the home mailbox remains unattended, it would be a good idea to use collection boxes for outgoing mail. Moreover, it is better to collect mail immediately upon arrival rather than wait for unscrupulous people to go through them. Always use a shredder to shred important documents before throwing them in trash. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

(v) Cautious use of internet: Internet has pervaded many aspects of our lives and we often tend to give out many aspects of our private lives unwittingly or thinking that they are on safe sites. Therefore, the first and foremost preventive step is to desist from giving out personal information, social security number or credit card details through e-mail or on popular networking sites. When accessing web pages, make sure that the page is the actual one and not an impersonated one which receives your details. While making online purchases with a credit card, one should always make sure one is on a secure web page. This can be done by checking that there is a padlock visible on the status bar of the browser. In case a social security number has to be provided, for instance, on an online credit application, it must be ensured that the web page is a secure one. Finally, any computer accessing the Internet must have an effective antivirus and personal firewall which must be updated periodically. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

(vi) Protect your computer: It is better to shut down the computer when going for a break or a snack. People may use your computer in your absence to find out personal details and use it against you. (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

It is strange that so many of these preventive steps which seem to be a part of common sense, are not followed by such a large fraction of people. If these simple and common preventive steps as well as lifestyle changes had been followed, so many people would not have fallen prey to the smart and often not-so-smart identity thieves. Many of these thieves are not so smart or sophisticated as one may believe them to be. They depend a lot on the carelessness and foolishness of their victims. Therefore, the main "mantra" for avoiding identity theft is that "Prevention starts with you." (Atlantic Publishing, 2008); (the Silver Lake, Loberg, Silver Lake Publishing, 2004); ("Identity Theft Prevention," n. d.)

References

Atlantic Publishing. (2008) "The Online Identity Theft Prevention Kit: Stop Scammers,

Hackers, and Identity Thieves from Ruining Your Life" Atlantic Publishing Company.

Caroll, Jason. (2009) "Identity Theft: Cyber criminals hack Facebook"

Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://ibnlive.in.com/news/identity-theft-cyber-criminals-hack-facebook/84607-11.html

McEwen, J. Thomas; Fester, Dennis; Nugent, Hugh. Institute for Law and Justice, Inc.,

National Institute of Justice. (1989) "Dedicated Computer Crime Units" DIANE Publishing.

N.A. (2009) "How do Identity Thieves steal your Information?" Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://101-identitytheft.com/steal.htm

N.A. (n. d.) "Computer Crimes in the Digital Age" Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://www.identitytheftfixes.com/computer_crimes_in_the_digital_age.html

N.A. (n. d.) "Identity Theft Prevention" Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://101-identitytheft.com/prevent.htm

N.A. (2009) "Types of Computer Crimes" Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/types-of-computer-crimes.html

N.A. (2009) "What is Identity Theft?" Retrieved 28 March, 2009 from http://101-identitytheft.com/idtheft.htm

Schwabach, Aaron. (2005) "Internet and the law"

ABC-CLIO.

The Silver Lake, Loberg, Kristin; Silver Lake Publishing. (2004) "Identity Theft"…

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