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Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else's identity , usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person's name,   and perhaps to the other person's disadvantage or loss. The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences,  especially if they are held responsible for the perpetrator's actions. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another's personally identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
The term identity theft was coined in Determining the link between data breaches and identity theft is challenging, primarily because identity theft victims often do not know how their personal information was obtained, and identity theft is not always detectable by the individual victims, according to a report done for the FTC.
Someone can steal or misappropriate personal information without then committing identity theft using the information about every person, such as when a major data breach occurs. A US Government Accountability Office study determined that "most breaches have not resulted in detected incidents of identity theft".
A later unpublished study by Carnegie Mellon University noted that "Most often, the causes of identity theft is not known", but reported that someone else concluded that "the probability of becoming a victim to identity theft as a result of a data breach is An October article entitled "Cyber Crime Made Easy" explained the level to which hackers are using malicious software.
As one security specialist named Gunter Ollmann said, "Interested in credit card theft? There's an app for that. The new program for infecting users' computers is called Zeus ; and the program is so hacker friendly that even an inexperienced hacker can operate it. Although the hacking program is easy to use, that fact does not diminish the devastating effects that Zeus or other software like Zeus can do to a computer and the user. For example, the article stated that programs like Zeus can steal credit card information, important documents, and even documents necessary for homeland security.
If the hacker were to gain this information, it would mean identity theft or even a possible terrorist attack. Sources such as the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center  sub-divide identity theft into five categories:. Identity theft may be used to facilitate or fund other crimes including illegal immigration , terrorism , phishing and espionage. There are cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, including online credit card processing and medical insurance.
In this situation, the identity thief impersonates someone else in order to conceal their own true identity. Examples might be illegal immigrants, people hiding from creditors or other individuals, or those who simply want to become "anonymous" for personal reasons. Another example are posers , a label given to people who use somebody else's photos and information through social networking sites. Mostly, posers create believable stories involving friends of the real person they are imitating.
Unlike identity theft used to obtain credit which usually comes to light when the debts mount, concealment may continue indefinitely without being detected, particularly if the identity thief is able to obtain false credentials in order to pass various authentication tests in everyday life. When a criminal fraudulently identifies himself to police as another individual at the point of arrest, it is sometimes referred to as "Criminal Identity Theft.
Provided the subterfuge works, charges may be placed under the victim's name, letting the criminal off the hook. Victims might only learn of such incidents by chance, for example by receiving court summons, discovering their drivers licenses are suspended when stopped for minor traffic violations, or through background checks performed for employment purposes.
It can be difficult for the victim of a criminal identity theft to clear their record. The steps required to clear the victim's incorrect criminal record depend in which jurisdiction the crime occurred and whether the true identity of the criminal can be determined. The victim might need to locate the original arresting officers and prove their own identity by some reliable means such as fingerprinting or DNA testing, and may need to go to a court hearing to be cleared of the charges.
Obtaining an expungement of court records may also be required. Authorities might permanently maintain the victim's name as an alias for the criminal's true identity in their criminal records databases. One problem that victims of criminal identity theft may encounter is that various data aggregators might still have the incorrect criminal records in their databases even after court and police records are corrected.
Thus it is possible that a future background check will return the incorrect criminal records. A variation of identity theft which has recently become more common is synthetic identity theft , in which identities are completely or partially fabricated.
Synthetic identity theft is more difficult to track as it doesn't show on either person's credit report directly, but may appear as an entirely new file in the credit bureau or as a subfile on one of the victim's credit reports.
Synthetic identity theft primarily harms the creditors who unwittingly grant the fraudsters credit. Individual victims can be affected if their names become confused with the synthetic identities, or if negative information in their subfiles impacts their credit ratings.
Privacy researcher Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum, coined the term medical identity theft and released the first major report about this issue in In the report, she defined the crime for the first time and made the plight of victims public. The report's definition of the crime is that medical identity theft occurs when someone seeks medical care under the identity of another person. Insurance theft is also very common, if a thief has your insurance information and or your insurance card, they can seek medical attention posing as yourself.
Inaccurate information in the victim's records is difficult to correct and may affect future insurability or cause doctors relying on the misinformation to deliver inappropriate medical care. After the publication of the report, which contained a recommendation that consumers receive notifications of medical data breach incidents, California passed a law requiring this, and then finally HIPAA was expanded to also require medical breach notification when breaches affect or more people.
Child identity theft occurs when a minor's identity is used by another person for the impostor's personal gain. The impostor can be a family member, a friend, or even a stranger who targets children. The Social Security numbers of children are valued because they do not have any information associated with them.
Thieves can establish lines of credit, obtain driver's licenses, or even buy a house using a child's identity. This fraud can go undetected for years, as most children do not discover the problem until years later. Child identity theft is fairly common, and studies have shown that the problem is growing. The largest study on child identity theft, as reported by Richard Power of the Carnegie Mellon Cylab with data supplied by AllClear ID , found that of 40, children, The most common type is financial identity theft, where someone wants to gain economical benefits in someone else's name.
This includes getting credits, loans, goods and services, claiming to be someone else. Identity thieves typically obtain and exploit personally identifiable information about individuals, or various credentials they use to authenticate themselves, in order to impersonate them. The majority of identity theft victims do not realize that they are a victim until it has negatively impacted their lives. Many people do not find out that their identities have been stolen until they are contacted by financial institutions or discover suspicious activities on their bank accounts.
The following are ten indicators that someone else might be using your identity. The acquisition of personal identifiers is made possible through serious breaches of privacy. For consumers, this is usually a result of them naively providing their personal information or login credentials to the identity thieves as a result of being duped but identity-related documents such as credit cards, bank statements, utility bills, checkbooks etc.
Guardianship of personal identifiers by consumers is the most common intervention strategy recommended by the US Federal Trade Commission , Canadian Phone Busters and most sites that address identity theft. Such organizations offer recommendations on how individuals can prevent their information falling into the wrong hands. Identity theft can be partially mitigated by not identifying oneself unnecessarily a form of information security control known as risk avoidance.
This implies that organizations, IT systems and procedures should not demand excessive amounts of personal information or credentials for identification and authentication. Requiring, storing and processing personal identifiers such as Social Security number , national identification number , driver's license number, credit card number, etc. Committing personal identifiers to memory is a sound practice that can reduce the risks of a would-be identity thief from obtaining these records.
To help in remembering numbers such as social security numbers and credit card numbers, it is helpful to consider using mnemonic techniques or memory aids such as the mnemonic Major System. Identity thieves sometimes impersonate dead people, using personal information obtained from death notices, gravestones and other sources to exploit delays between the death and the closure of the person's accounts, the inattentiveness of grieving families and weaknesses in the processes for credit-checking.
Such crimes may continue for some time until the deceased's families or the authorities notice and react to anomalies. These services purport to help protect the individual from identity theft or help detect that identity theft has occurred in exchange for a monthly or annual membership fee or premium.
The FTC agreed to the industry's self-regulating principles restricting access to information on credit reports. Credit reporting agencies gather and disclose personal and credit information to a wide business client base. Poor stewardship of personal data by organizations, resulting in unauthorized access to sensitive data, can expose individuals to the risk of identity theft. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has documented over individual data breaches by US companies and government agencies since January , which together have involved over million total records containing sensitive personal information, many containing social security numbers.
The failure of corporate or government organizations to protect consumer privacy , client confidentiality and political privacy has been criticized for facilitating the acquisition of personal identifiers by criminals. Using various types of biometric information, such as fingerprints , for identification and authentication has been cited as a way to thwart identity thieves, however there are technological limitations and privacy concerns associated with these methods as well. In March , after it was learned two passengers with stolen passports were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight which went missing on March 8, , it came to light that Interpol maintains a database of 40 million lost and stolen travel documents from countries which it makes available to governments and the public, including airlines and hotels.
Noble told a forum in Abu Dhabi the previous month this was the case. The result is a major gap in our global security apparatus that is left vulnerable to exploitation by criminals and terrorists," Noble is quoted as saying. In Australia, each state has enacted laws that deal with different aspects of identity or fraud issues. Other states and territories are in states of development in respect of regulatory frameworks relating to identity theft such as Western Australia in respect of Criminal Code Amendment Identity Crime Bill The total cost reported by the Attorney General Department was: There are also high indirect costs associated as a direct result of an incident.
Imprisonment for 5 years. Likewise, each state has enacted their own privacy laws to prevent misuse of personal information and data. Everyone commits an offence who knowingly obtains or possesses another person's identity information in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable inference that the information is intended to be used to commit an indictable offence that includes fraud, deceit or falsehood as an element of the offence.
Under section of the Criminal Code ,. In Canada, Privacy Act federal legislation covers only federal government, agencies and crown corporations. Each province and territory has its own privacy law and privacy commissioners to limit the storage and use of personal data.
Under the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance , it established the post of Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and mandate how much personal information one can collect, retain and destruction.
This legislation also provides citizens the right to request information held by businesses and government to the extent provided by this law. Social networking sites are one of the most famous spreader of posers in the online community, giving the users freedom to place any information they want without any verification that the account is being used by the real person.
Philippines, which ranks eighth in the numbers of users of Facebook and other social networking sites such as Twitter , Multiply and Tumblr , has been known as source of various identity theft problems. There are people who meet online, get to know each other through the free Facebook chat and exchange of messages that then leads to sharing of private information. Others get romantically involved with their online friends that they tend to give too much information such as their social security number, bank account and even personal basic information such as home address and company address.
This phenomenon lead to the creation of Senate Bill Cybercrime Prevention Act of Sweden has had relatively few problems with identity theft.
This is because only Swedish identity documents have been accepted for identity verification. Stolen documents are traceable by banks and some other institutions. The banks have the duty to check the identity of people withdrawing money or getting loans.