The history and future of identity theft

Throughout our lives ever since we were born we needed protection. From the time we were just newborn babies to when we are older we seek protection. Even the world as we know it is designed for human safety. From the cars we drive which have seat belts to when we are conducting science lab experiments and have to wear goggles. The same type of protection is needed in the internet. One main problem we have in today’s society is concerning Identity theft, which is when someone uses your identity for their benefit.

Short History

Many people believe that identity theft began with the advent of the internet. But the truth of the matter is that Identity theft started before the advent of the internet.

Statistics say that identity theft is much more common now than it has ever been in the past. This is largely due to the advent and widespread use of the internet. However, identity theft did not begin over the internet.

Before the Internet came along, identity thieves could steal your identity by searching your trash to find personal information on papers like your bills and other important documents.

Other ways they could find your personal information is through phone scams. For example, an identity thief could phone someone to inform them that they won a prize, and for them to receive it they would need to give some personal information, and then use it for their benefit in the way they choose.

Ever since the internet came along, with other new technologies, identity theft has become more consistent, easier to do, and safer to execute it without getting caught.

The rapid growth of identity theft

The fastest growing crime in the world is widely starting to be considered Identity theft. Increasing identity theft is caused by the many ways in which we live our lives and process information. All these processes make it easier for identity thieves to access our person identifying information and ultimately snatching our identities.

The internet is a bypass of giving out your personal information quickly and easily resulting in it being sometimes less secured. If we really think about it we access our credit cards online, pay our bills online, and shop and make credit card transactions online. All of these things are quick and convenient but at the same time can pose a rick toward us

Some identity thieves create programs called spyware that is installed when we try installing different programs from the internet. The installed spyware basically spies on what you’re doing. Every time you go on a website, type your password, transmit information, the spyware keeps track of it. The people receiving this data can either keep it for themselves or pass it on to another person for money. One type of spyware called “Trojan horse” allows their creator to access through remote the computer and hard drive.

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When people make online transactions, online retailers of the store save both our contact name and credit care information on their databases. Then Marketing agencies collect the information from our spending habits as well as contact information, which seem to be secure. But the people that work there sometimes tend to sometimes have access to this information and use it for their own benefit. They may sell it or may be bribed to give out other people’s personal information breaking company policy.

Some times credit card companies give promotional offers to customers and have their credit card numbers on them, and if not disposed properly with a shredder than identity thieves going through your garbage and can use your personal information for their own benefit.

Data about Identity Theft

The Identity Theft Resource Center which is a non-profit organization identifies that theft can be sub-divided into five categories:

  • business/commercial identity theft (using another’s business name to obtain credit)
  • criminal identity theft (posing as another when apprehended for a crime)
  • financial identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain goods and services)
  • identity cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
  • medical identity theft (using another’s information to obtain medical care or drugs)

Elaboration on certain types of identity theft

Identity Cloning and Concealment

In this situation as the name suggests, is when an identity thief takes someone’s identification and impersonates them for an indefinite period of time. This may be done by someone who wants to avoid being arrested for a crime he/she did, to stay hid if working in a country illegally or a person hides from creditors.

Criminal Identity Theft

This type of theft is when a criminal breaks the law and is charged. And when the police ask for identification the thief would give a fake ID. After charged have been placed on the fake ID, the criminal is released. When it comes time for the court hearing the thief would not come, and the person whose name was given would be given a warrant under the assumed name. The victim might learn that he is charged through either a suspended driver license, or if they did a background check performed for employment or volunteering.

Synthetic Identity Theft

This type of identity theft, called Synthetic Identity theft is becoming more common, in which their identities are completely or partially made-up. Combining a real social security number along with a new birth date and name is one of the most common techniques in doing this. Synthetic Identity theft is quite hard to tract down, because it doesn’t show on a person’s credit card report directly but may appear as a completely new file in the credit bureau. Synthetic Identity theft mainly targets the creditors the unwittingly grant the thief’s credit. It can also affect consumers because their name can become confused with the synthetic identity.

Medical Identity Theft

Medical Identity theft is when an identity thief uses someone’s name as well as their insurance number to reap some benefits, without that person’s knowledge. They obtain medical services and goods, or use the persons name to make false claim for medical services and goods. This results to wrong entries being put in existing medical records under the victim’s name.

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Negative Social Impacts of Identity Theft

Identity Theft Statistics

Millions of people per year are victims of identity theft. In 2003-2004, the Identity Theft Resource Center had surveyed victims of identity theft and named the findings in a paper called The Aftermath Study. These results are great estimates of the effects of identity theft on its victims.

Discovery of Victimization

38-48% of victims find out about the identity theft within 3 months of it starting

9-18% of victims take 4 years or long to discover that they are victims of identity theft

Time Involved in Being a Victim

Victims spend from 3 to 5,840 hours repairing damage done by identity theft. This difference is due to the severity of the crime – for example a lost credit card versus the use of your social security number to become your “evil twin.” The average number of hours victims spend repairing the damage caused by identity theft is 330 hours.

26-32% of victims spend a period of 4 to 6 months dealing with their case and 11-23% report dealing with their case for 7 months to a year.

Monetary Costs of Identity Theft

40% of business costs for individual cases of identity theft exceed $15,000. The Aberdeen Group has estimated that $221 billion a year is lost by businesses worldwide due to identity theft

Victims lose an average of $1,820 to $14, 340 in wages dealing with their cases

Victims spend an average of $851 to $1378 in expenses related to their case

Practical and Emotional Costs of Identity Theft

47% of victims have trouble getting credit or a loan as a result of identity theft

19% of victims have higher credit rates and 16% have higher insurance rates because of identity theft

11% of victims say identity theft has a negative impact on their abilities to get jobs

70% of victims have trouble getting rid of (or never get rid of) negative information in their records

40% of victims find stress in their families as a result of anger over the identity theft

45% of victims feel denial or disbelief

85% of victims anger and rage

45% of victims feel defiled by the identity thief

42% of victims feel an inability to trust people because of the identity theft

60% of victims feel unprotected by the police

Uses of Victim Information

More than one third of victims report that identity thieves committed cherub account fraud.

66% of victims’ personal information is used to open a new credit account in their name

28% of victims’ personal information is used to purchase cell phone service

12% of victims end up having warrants issued in their name for financial crimes committed by the identity thief

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Imposter Characteristics and Relationships to the Victim

43% of victims believe they know the person who stole their identity

14-25% of victims believe the imposter is someone who is in a business that holds their personally identifying information

The most common reported perpetrator in cases where a child’s identity is stolen is the child’s parent

16% of identity theft victims are also victims of domestic harassment/abuse by the same perpetrator. These victims believe that the identity theft is used as another way for the abuser to continue and demonstrate his harassment and control.

Responsiveness to victims

Overall, police departments seem to be the most responsive to victims of identity theft, with 58% taking down a report on the victim’s first request

1/3 of victims have to send dispute information repeatedly to credit reporting agencies

Only 1/5 of victims find it easy to reach someone in a credit reporting agency after receiving their credit report

20% of victims will have the misinformation and errors removed from their credit report after their first request for the credit reporting agency to do so

Positive Social Effects of Identity Theft

There are no positive social effects for identity theft. The thief might temporarily benefit, but it’s not worth breaking the law and being punishable by it.

Future Trends of Identity Theft

In modern day society with so many companies giving out your personal information, in the future its going to be more likely that your identity might be stolen some point in the future. New reports from the US say that identity theft has come to such a point that convicting an identity thief has come close to impossible.

Things aren’t that downhill though. In 2007, specifically 26% more of identity thieves were caught than the year before. That’s great statistically wise but that still means that only 1943 people were caught out of 1.6 million reports of identity theft on file with the federal trade commission. This is due to the changing technology. Because when our technology changes so does the identity thieves making it much harder to track them.


In today’s modern world, this highly increasing act of identity theft is becoming more and more common. It’s really important to learn how to protect yourselves from this. Some simple things you could do to protect yourself from identity theft are:

  • Do not carry your Social Insurance Number around
  • Write down credit card numbers and write down
  • Continue to check on your credit report and correct any mistakes immediately
  • Memorize important passwords and your SIN number, and if written on a piece of paper, don’t put it in your wallet
  • Shred Old Statements and Sensitive documents
  • Be Alert of anyone trying to get personal information out of you

By adopting these simple habits and telling others about them, can help reduce the chances of your identity become stolen.

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