“Identity theft is also defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) as ‘fraud committed or attempted using the identifying information of another person without permission’,” (Finklea, 2009). Security threats and vulnerabilities have constantly been on the radar for as long as technology has been used to store valuable data or assets.
In modern time, technology has grown and become unrecognizable with the way in which it started. At the rate in which technology is growing, the vulnerabilities have also increased in both networks and user accounts, both personal and work related. Identity theft is not something in which recently appeared on the radar. It has been a constant problem for many years, in more forms than the one. Identity theft is classified as an act of illegally obtaining critical pieces of personal information in order to impersonate someone else.
Recently, it is used for the most part for personal gains and with the act of other fraudulent activities. Identity thieves can gain access to all kinds of personal information, which can lead to them fraudulently draining a bank account, places charges on credit cards, and receiving medical treatment on the health insurance which they would obtain access to (USAGov, n.d.). Identity theft is becoming more and more common as technology advances and we become more reliant on it.
Over 17.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2014 according to the US Department of Justice (Harrell, 2015). In comparison with the report from 2012’s chart on the victims of identity theft, there were significant increases in stolen identities between 2012 and 2014. As stated in the article, so many people were affected differently, the majority of the victims affected experienced the fraudulent use of existing account information, which includes bank account or credit card information. There was an increase in the number of elderly victims of identity theft from 2.1 million (2012) to 2.6 million (2014). There was a percentage of people who experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 and more. The upside about this situation was that about half of the people affected had the ability to resolve any associated problems within a day or less.
These numbers will continue to grow if companies, organizations, and even personal users do not take the proper and needed steps and precautions to secure all personal and classified data. Identity thieves can obtain access to all sorts of personal information within a poorly secured network that they find useful, which leads to an identity being stolen. Identity theft is an incredibly large and substantial problem that has escalated quickly throughout our communities due to the technical advancement. The chances of being victim to identify theft have increased as the years progress, meaning that actions should be taken as soon as possible to help alleviate risks such as these. This type of crime has been steadily rising in past decade.
Almost all personal information is stored within a virtual cloud and can be access electronically by anyone who has the authorization to access it, though security breaches are also becoming even more common. If the data is not properly secured by implementing the proper system security policies, a reliable firewall, or any sort of virus protection program, then the information is left exposed and vulnerable, which leaves millions of people at risk and open to identity theft. “Identity theft and related fraudulent activities affect approximately one in twenty-five adults each year across western societies,” (Roberts, 2013).
In 2017, Equifax fell victim to cybercrime which led to cybercriminals exploiting a vulnerability within the Equifax website, which granted them access to user’s personal files. This data breach was discovered about two months after the first initial hack took place. These cybercriminals were able to steal classified and sensitive data such as the names of the user’s, social security numbers, addresses, and a bunch of other personal criteria (Symantec Corporation, n.d.).
During this breach, about 145 million people had personal information compromised. Not many knew whether or not they have fallen victims to this breach. People were instructed to routinely check all of their financial accounts for any suspicious activities, to change any sort of security questions to any other accounts which might have the same information as their Equifax account, and if they believe that their social security number has been leaked to put a freeze on their credit report which would prevent the thieve(s) from opening new credit cards. Breaches are incredibly common now in the modern world due to the fact that the payoff for cybercriminals might be at a season high. It is advised to always add an extra layer of protection to all accounts and networks. Thieves could get their hands on personal and financial information by simply dumpster diving, phising, and phone/email scams. It is best to not overshare any personal or classified information on any social media account that is not private or tightly secured.
Cybercriminals may be able to hack into a social media account and obtain personal information that can significantly harm the user. Always ensure that all passwords are a mixture of special characters, capital letters, and numbers, which would make it increasingly difficult for a hacker to gain access to an account. “According to a 2017 study on fraud released by Javelin Strategy & Research, fraud showed a sustained increase in 2016, jumping 16% to affect 6.15% of consumers, up from 5.30% in 2015,” (Baird, 2017). It is incredibly important to immediately get in touch with the credit bureaus, contact the bank provider, and file reports with the FTC and your local police, if one feels as though they are victims of identity theft.
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