Identity Theft

By: Tom Uzupus

In order to understand how and why identity theft occurs through technology, it is essential to understand what exactly identity theft is.

"The stealing of a person's financial information, especially credit cards, and Social Security number, with the intention of using that data to commit fraud and create a phony persona" (Dictionary.com, 2010)

Identity-Theft.jpg
http://www.gfi.com/blog/identity-theft/


As you may have witnessed, or possibly even experienced in the past decade, identity theft is a regular occurrence. In particular, the Internet has turned into one of the most common areas of identity theft. With social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace booming during the past 5 years, more people are either having their identity deliberately stolen, or being duped into it away without a second thought. The Internet Fraud Complaint Center, IFCC, is also an expanding department within the FBI because of the growing concern over identity theft (Longley, 2010).

It would seem like a ridiculous thought to assume that people can be so unsafe when handling their personal information, but it is quite the opposite. Many people do not realize that crooks are trying to steal personal information but phishing or spoofing are being seen now more than ever. Spoofing or phishing emails make the reader believe that they are being sent from a credible source, such as a company or a relative's friend, and that the source is asking for either help or for particular clarification. In reality, these emails are hoping that the reader responds with the information, and that is exactly when the reader's identity has been compromised (Longley, 2010). These emails are sometimes referred to as "spam" but they are extremely dangerous if the reader does not take the time to understand what the intent of email is.



Below is a graph that was released in 2007 under research from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with its Identity Fraud Survey Report. These graphs will shed some light on how personal information was used after it was stolen:

statgraph.jpg
http://www.unc.edu/courses/2008spring/law/357c/001/idtheft/about.htm


While these emails may seem easy to through in trash, there is sometimes nothing that can be done about having your identity stolen. The worst part is by the time the victim finds out, their lives could possibly be on a slope of destruction. One man from Bowie, MD was one of those people:


"In fewer than six months, some $900,000 in merchandise, gambling and telephone-services charges were siphoned out of his debit card. His attempts to salvage his finances have cost him nearly $100,000 and have bled dry his savings and retirement accounts. His credit score, once a strong 780, has been decimated. And his identity — Social Security number, address, phone numbers, even historical information — is still being used in attempts to open credit cards and bank accounts.

'I have no identity,” said Crouse, 56. “I have no legacy. My identity is public knowledge and even though it’s ruined, they’re still using it'" (Identity Theft Stories, 2010).

From this story, Crouse lost almost everything he once had simply because someone had stolen his identity. Identity thieves steal through acquiring a phone number and then pay an illegal online service to link that number to a Social Security number. A second route is , adware and spyware programs log users keystrokes, which is called keylogging, in order to hack into online bank accounts. The scariest part is that these forms of spyware can be secretly downloaded on your computer just by surfing the Web (Identity Theft Stores, 2010). To read the entire story, click here.



When documents in hard copy form, it is almost second nature for most people to shred the document. However, when that same document's information is on the Internet, it is practically impossible to eliminate it entirely. What makes matters worse is that identity theft "According to Javelin Strategies, a prominent research firm that often reports on identity theft, incidences of the crime increased by 11% from 2008 to 2009 altering the lives of 11 million Americans" (IdentityTheftLabs, 2010).


This is a frightening fact. Also, according to the same study, young adults are likely to be victims more so than anyone else because of the risks they take online, along with using multiple computer to sign into personal accounts (IdentityTheftLabs, 2010). We can protect ourselves by shredding all hard copies of personal information or spam letters, take extra precaution to not lose personal belongings such as wallets and purses that hold personal information, and keep a close eye on our bank statements (IdentityTheftStories, 2010).

(No one wants to end up like this woman.)


Technology and the Internet are amazing, but that doesn't make it safe.



References:
Image 1: http://www.gfi.com/blog/identity-theft/
Image 2: http://www.unc.edu/courses/2008spring/law/357c/001/idtheft/about.htm
Identity Theft Definition Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/identity+theft
Carabott, E., 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.gfi.com/blog/identity-theft/
Identity Theft Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.unc.edu/courses/2008spring/law/357c/001/idtheft/about.htm
Identity Theft Stories. Retrieved from: http://www.idtheftstories.net/2010/05/identity-fraud-nightmare-one-mans-story/
Identity Theft Techniques. Retrieved from: http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/consumer/a/aaspoofing.htm
Identity Theft Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.identitytheftlabs.com/identity-theft/identity-theft-statistics-2010/


Cyberstalking
email_threatening.jpg
By Jordan Simpler

Cyberstalking has become more and more prevalent in the past years as the use of technology has become more and more advanced. With the development of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Xanga, and Twitter, you can put your personal information and pictures on the internet for all your friends to see and always be connected. The problem is that your friends are not the only ones that can see your information. So. essentially your life is out there for all to see and this can lead to serious problems.

Technology is so advanced that if a person has a "smartphone" then they can download an application called "Foursquare" which is a geolocation social networking device that allows others with the application to be able to know your location and gives access to other social networking sites. The Guardian.co.uk has an interesting article on this subject called "How I became a Foursquare cyberstalker". Take a look: Foursquare article

Cyberstalking is defined as: "the use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organisation. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass." (Wikipedia.com, 2010)

Cyberstalking may seem like it's not a big deal but it is. Those effected can be caused serious harm. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime's website, cyber stalking is just as serious as offline stalking. "Similar to stalking off-line, online stalking can be a terrifying experience for victims, placing them at risk of psychological trauma, and possible physical harm. Many cyberstalking situations do evolve into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault (Cyberstalking, 2003)."

Though it is a relativly new phenominum, laws are already in place to prevent this serious crime from taking taking place. 47 out of the 50 states already have laws that relate to or explicitly state electronic harassment is a form of stalking. Maryland state law addresses the use of electronic mail as a form of harassment and stalking. Here is a link to that law

Laws are not the only form that protect you from cyberstalking. Why not stop it before it even happens? Here are 12 tips to protecting yourself from being cyberstalked written by Alexis. A Moore, founder of the national advocacy group Survivors in Action:

  1. "Never reveal your home address.cyberstalking.jpg
  2. Password protect all accounts
  3. Conduct an internet search using your name and phone number
  4. Be suspicious of any incoming emails, telephone calls or texts that ask you for your identifying information.
  5. Never give out your Social Security Number
  6. Utilize stat counters or other free registry counters that will record all incoming traffic to your blogs and web sites.
  7. Check your credit report status regularly
  8. If you are leaving a partner, spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend – reset every single password on all of your accounts to something they cannot guess.
  9. If you encounter something suspicious –it could be a cyberstalker so act accordingly.
  10. If you think you're a target, have your PC checked by a professional.
  11. If you think you have a cyberstalker, move fast.
  12. Get lots of emotional support to handle the cyberstalking period and to deal with the aftermath (2009)"

Here is a clip about how Facebook has led to cyberstalking:


Image 1 http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/graphics/illos/email.threatening.jpg
Image 2 http://mirandarights.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/cyberstalking.jpg
reference 1: Cyberstalking-http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32458
reference 2: wikipedia definition- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberstalking
reference 3: 12 Tips- http://womensissues.about.com/od/violenceagainstwomen/a/CyberPrevention.htm


Professional Consequences of Social Networking
By Katie Dell
Have you ever thought that maybe you and your friends are not the only people checking out your MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, or blog? If you haven't, you should. More employers than ever are using social networking sites and search engines like Google to screen their prospective employees. Your profile could be the deal breaker when it comes down to getting (or even keeping) a job. For more information, and what you can do to help your internet image please view the online poster link below.
Click here to find out more!




Online Predators
By Jennifer Passman


Sexual predators may not be so obvious to a young teen. Some teens just want a friend online to talk to when they think they'll never meet face to face. But when some adults use fake information and misrepresent themselves, safety is compromised.
Click here to learn more about sexual predators