What Is Identity Theft?
The crime of Identity Theft occurs when one person's name, social security number, ID card, account number or any other form of identification is used by or transferred to another person for unlawful purposes. The seriousness of this crime cannot be overstated.
Every 1 1/3 minutes Identity Theft claims a new victim.
How bad is it?
Between nine and ten million consumers become victims of Identity Theft each year. This is one of the fastest growing federal crimes in the United States.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Most victims don't know how thieves got their personal information in the first place. The first thing experts recommend is that we should stop giving out our Social Security number any time we are asked for it. Always question anyone asking for this type of sensitive information with the reply: WHY?
Identity Thieves not always strangers
Although a large number of Identity theft victims believe the identity theft occurred when their purse or wallet was stolen or lost, there are a number of other ways that it occurs.
It has been proven that numerous victims of identity theft were preyed upon by someone they knew. Believe it or not many victims discover that relatives, ex spouses, ex lovers, roommates, landlords and even hired help can become thieves. Anyone that has access to your home can get hold of private information unless you take steps to guard against this.
Identity Theft can go undetected for years
Identity Thieves have been known to milk your accounts for years by changing your address on choice accounts and receiving your mail themselves. In this way you won't ever receive any bill with fraudulent charges on it. By paying the minimum required monthly payment, they avoid any unwanted attention to the account. In this way they can run up enormous bills before discarding the use of the account.
For many years prior to the present pandemic of Identity Theft, favorites of Identity thieves, and other criminals were the identities of deceased persons and children. This still goes on today especially since children receive Social Security numbers at such an early age.
Private Mail is a favorite target. It is stolen from mailboxes, businesses, drop-boxes, and from garbage cans and wastebaskets.
Since thieves often re-sell stolen personal information, they are now targeting large groups of people. These thefts take place anywhere that records of a number of people are kept, netting the thieves larger sums of money for one operation.
Cyber crime a huge arena of Identity Theft
Computers, including the ones you have at home, can be infected with spyware viruses such as Trojan horses, Backdoor Santas, and Advertising spyware. These are just a few of the viruses that can transmit your information and browsing habits back to those who launched them, including thieves.
Spam is unwanted, unsolicited electronic junk mail. It is usually of a commercial nature, which invites you to provide financial, personal, or credit card information. It also invites you to visit another web site. During your visit to the sites the viruses, which gather your information, are installed on your computer, and transmit your information back to its source.
What the Government says about growing Identity Theft
Lets take a look at what the government says about it, what the government and other agencies are doing about it and where to find information to protect yourself from it.
On December 4, 2003, President Bush signed into law The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003
* Giving every consumer the right to his or her credit report free of charge every year.
* Helping prevent identity theft before it occurs by requiring merchants to leave all but the last five digits of a credit card number off store receipts
* Creating a national system of fraud detection to make identity thieves more likely to be caught.
There are several other benefits to this Act, which you can read about at:
President Bush Signs Identity Theft Act
In July of 2004 President Bush signed the Identity Theft Enhancement Act. At the signing the President remarked:
"Like other forms of stealing, identity theft leaves the victim poor and feeling terribly violated . . . An identity thief can steal the victim's financial reputation . . . and can quickly damage a person's lifelong efforts to build and maintain a good credit rating. Repairing the damage can take months or years."
F.B.I. Testifies on Efforts to Curtail Identity Theft
On September 22, 2004 Steven M Martinez the Deputy Assistant Director of the F.B.I., testified before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.
The subject of this Congressional Testimony was the FBI's efforts to combat Identity Theft, as well as other overlapping cyber crime problems. According to Mr. Martinez,
" Some studies show that more than 10 million Americans were victimized by Identity Theft in the space of one year with estimated loses exceeding 50 million dollars."
Federal Trade Commission is one of agencies in forefront of fight against Identity Theft
The FTC is designed to enforce a variety of federal antitrust and consumer protection laws, encourage free trade, and educate the public about threats such as Identity Theft.
Federal Trade Commission Report
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has topped their annual report of consumer complaints for six years in a row, costing citizens and businesses approximately $52 billion annually.
* The latest projection figures show a whopping $5 Billion in consumer losses and another $48 billion in losses to business, totaling an estimated $53 billion in losses annually, to come.
FTC Releases Survey of Identity Theft in U.S.
(Sept. 19, 2006 - The President's Identity Theft Task Force):
* 27.3 Million Victims in Past 5 Years
* Billions in Losses for Businesses and Consumers
FTC Press Release: (February 7, 2007)
FTC Issues Annual List of Top Consumer Complaints. Eight Most significant categories of identity theft reported by victims:
1. Credit card Fraud................(25%)
2. Phone or Utility Fraud............(16%)
3. Bank Fraud....................(16%)
4. Employment Fraud...............(14%)
5. Government Documents/Benefits Fraud......(10%)
6. Loan Fraud..................(5%)
7. Other Identity Theft methods..............(24%)
8. Attempted Identity Theft..............(6%)
US Agencies involved in fight against Identity Theft:
* Federal Bureau of Investigation
* Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
* Federal Trade Commission
* Department of Commerce
* Homeland Security
* Identity Theft Task Force (headed by the Attorney Gen.) Established May 10,2006
* Department of Justice
* Office of Justice Programs
* Securities and Exchange Commission
* US Postal Inspection Service
* US Secret Service: Electronic Crimes Task Force
* US Treasury Dept.
* US-Cert (US computer emergency readiness team)
Spamming Identity Thieves Invite Law Enforcement Initiatives
The FBI Cyber Division, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, have been joined by law enforcement agencies through out the US, to developed initiatives against spammers.
Some Anti-Spam Initiatives
1. The FBI's Slam-Spam initiative
2. Operation WEB-SNARE
3. Operations E-Con and Cyber Sweep
4. The Can Spam Act of 2003
5. The Phishing Initiative
The FBI's Slam-Spam initiative.
As a result of this initiative, more than 20 Cyber Task Forces are actively pursuing over 30 criminals.
In WEB-SNARE, more than 150 investigations were successfully advanced, in which 150 subjects were charged, and 170 search and/or seizure warrants were executed.
Operations E-Con and Cyber Sweep:
The IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) coordinated the development and execution of Operations in which more than 200 investigations among various law enforcement agencies, resulted in arrests and/or charges against more than 250 suspected individuals for engaging in a variety of cyber crimes including Identity Theft.
The Can Spam Act of 2003
To regulate interstate commerce by imposing limitations and penalties on the transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail via the Internet. This Act may be cited as the ''Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003''.
ABC News (March 9, 2007)
The FTC notes that it has filed more than 20 lawsuits alleging that spammers violated CAN-SPAM; an additional 30 suits have been filed by the Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and various Internet service providers.
The Phishing Initiative
Phishing [View Webopedia Definition] (fishing) (n.)
The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user's information.
March 2006, the Global Phishing Enforcement Initiative (GPEI),
This project is being jointly developed with approximately 40 SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) from 25 separate industry organizations that have agreed to join law enforcement in this project. The project is being developed jointly between the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Secret Service, and the FTC.
Available Law Statutes:
In addition to the CAN SPAM ACT of 2003, such schemes might be prosecuted through Title 18, USC 1028 (Fraud and related activity in connection with Identity documents), Title 18, USC 1029 (Fraud and related activity in connection with Access Devices), Title 18, USC 1030 (Fraud and related activity in connection with computers), Title 18 USC 2319 (Criminal Infringement of a copyright), Title 18 USC 1343 (Fraud by Wire), Title 18 USC 1341 (Mail Fraud), and Title18 USC 1028A (Identity theft penalty enhancements).
Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
I have attempted to present the following facts concerning Identity Theft:
* What Identity Theft is.
* How wide spread it is.
* How many people are affected annually.
* How it happens.
* What the government says about it.
* What the government is doing about it.
Although some areas of Identity theft are showing signs of decrease (Internet Spamming), it looks like Identity Theft is going to be with us for some time. The best thing that we can do is to come to our own defense through knowledge.
Know what to do to protect yourself, then take steps to put your knowledge to work.
I have included a number of web sites where you can find plenty of information on how to reduce your chances of Identity Theft.
FTC (Federal Trade Commission)
Fighting Back Against Identity Theft
http://www.ftc.gov/ --Includes video on subject.
Call toll free: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
US Department of Justice
Request a free copy of the "Stop Identity Theft Now" Educational video by calling 888-228-0315
FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp)
or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.
Consumer Information from the Government
National Credit Union Administration
Better Business Bureau On Line
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
NATIONAL COMPUTER CRIME SQUAD
US Department of Education
US Postal Inspection Service
Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)
Privacy Rights Clearing House