Example Of The Problem Of Identity Theft Argumentative Essay

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Crime, Information, People, Theft, Identity, Victimology, White Collar Crime, Banking

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2021/01/03

Identity Theft

While theft is stereotypically associable with the misappropriation of money of material property, it is information that can be stolen by thieves for self-enrichment. By acquiring personal or identity data, criminals can gain access to the financial resources of their victims or other relevant information that would serve the purpose of personal enrichment. Millions of people fall victim to wrongdoers annually, and the USA is no exception to the general tendency. Thieves can render personal information accessible via technical and traditional means alike, without disdaining to ransack through trash. As it is, better educated, elderly and people with higher social status and income, a good credit and regular transaction history are prone to data theft. A search for adrenaline and money for comfortable living or due to poverty along with technological progress and people’s carelessness allow and drive people to commit information stealing. The best way to avoid data leakage is for people not to give wrongdoers a chance by following simple, albeit effective safety recommendations. The point is that personal information theft is a widespread crime committed against certain categories of citizens for economic reasons; still, it is possible to prevent given people’s cautiousness and recommendation compliance.

Identity theft is the misappropriation if personal information for economic purposes and, if statistics is to be believed, it is one of the biggest economic crimes to date, based on its scope. The economic side of the problem that implies the loss of personal earnings by people and the scope of theft proliferation are what require immediate actions to be taken by people themselves to keep their identity safe. The victims of theft are usually people of high social standing with significant monthly income or bank accounts, a solid educational background, a good credit history, and regular financial transactions. Elderly people also qualify as victims for want of technical skills needed to monitor their financial savings. Theft occurs because new technologies or people’s carelessness allows them to steal what is not theirs. Thieves also seek to satisfy the quest for adrenaline or want to improve their financial wellbeing. To steal data, they use both technological and non-technological or conventional, classical means at first best opportunity. However difficult, the problem has solutions that are people’s cautiousness given abidance by simple recommendations.

The Scope of Identity Theft: A Problem that Requires Solving

If there is one problem, the US authorities need to solve and that rapidly, it is identity theft, for statistics is indicative of the wide scope of the issue that has assumed the proportions of an epidemic. Better Business Bureau (n.p.) suggests that identity theft has earned the reputation of the defining offense of the information age. An estimated 9 million instances of the crime take place on a yearly basis (qtd. in Newman and McNally 1). Bernstein (2004) and Perl (2003) noted that identity theft had come to rank as the most prevalent of American economic offenses over the past decade (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 3). Federal Trade Commission (2006) reported that 255.565 or 37% in statistical terms out of 685.000 fraud-related complaints filed by the American residents involved identity theft (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 3). Harrell and Langton (1) note that 16.6 million people in the USA, which is equivalent to 7% of all citizens aged 16 and older found their identity stolen on one or a number of different occasions as of 2012. Out of all thefts, credit card accounts suffered in 40% of cases while existing bank accounts made up the second largest segment, with 37% of cases recorded.
In as many as 85% of identity theft episodes, law offenders committed fraud by making use of current account information like bank account and credit card data. Approximately 14% of the victims of identity theft faced cash losses of one dollars or in excess of the amount. Of these, 50% incurred losses under 100 dollars. Indirect and direct losses amounted to 24.7 billion dollars in the year 2012. Over the period, criminals made attempted an unauthorized use of personal data to launch a new debit or credit account, checking, telephone, mortgage, loan, and savings account. Offenders would also steal information for renting a house or an apartment, receiving government benefits, a job, or medical care, and giving false information to law enforcement agencies in case of being charged with a traffic violation or a more serious crime. In the aftermath of the identity misappropriation, 36% of victims reported emotional distress ranging from moderate to severe.
Newman and McNally (1-3) note that the likelihood of victimization rises if potential offenders like family members or people, a victim shares living space with, such as fellow residents in military barracks or college dormitories. All they need is to have access to identifying data like mother’s maiden name, a birth date, and Social Security number. Personal information misappropriation unfolds in three different stages, such as acquisition, use, and discovery. Identity use offers a wide range of options, such as new account opening, account takeover, the use of credit or debit card, identity selling on the black or street market, rental car theft, insurance fraud, filing swindling tax returns for significant refunds, and the acquisition of extra identity-related documents like visas, passports, driving licenses, and health insurance cards (Newman and McNally 6). The duration of discovery process determines the volume of losses and the possibility of successful prosecution. It takes individuals with a lower educational background and elderly people longer to detect the fact of stealing. The internet is the key facilitator granting anonymity to offenders and offering access to users’ identity information. A wide range of various offenses may involve the application and abuse of other people’s identity, such as plastic card frauds, inclusive of check, credit, debit, and phone cards, check frauds, counterfeiting, immigration fraud, forgery, postal fraud, terrorism by means of stolen or false identity. The crime may additionally include theft of different types like burglary, pickpocketing, and mugging to gain access to the personal information of a victim (Newman and McNally 2-3).
Most theft ways are far from refined, with offenders ransacking through business dumpsters or residential trashcans, stealing wallets or mail, receiving credit reports by bribing service organizations, agencies, or business employees or acting as people sanctioned to do so as employers or property owners, let alone multiple extra means other than technological (Newman and McNally 3). Besides dumpster diving wallet stealing, and mail theft, according to Life Lock (n.p.), there are also such theft types as data breaches, address change, whereby offenders change people’s mail address and redirect the flow of mails and shoulder surfing, by which thieves in proximity of victims use mobile devices to record personal information. Handheld skimmers or ATM skimmers allow offenders to steal data while a victim is in the process of a fiscal transaction like using an ATM or paying for dinner or gas.
Overlays imply the installation of hidden devices on an ATM for information theft during card insertion. High-tech thieves opting for P2P file sharing take advantage of music sharing websites along with other peer-to-peer networks to gain access to information like account numbers, birth dates, passwords, and tax returns through accidental revelation. Thieves utilizing phishing send fake emails to receive identity information, such as bank accounts, credit cards, PINs, and Social Security number. Offenders using SMSishing send phone messages directing to hazardous websites. They may also get information via Vishing using voice calls or online shopping reproducing legal online stores. Next generation theft tools include malicious software, Trojan horses, worms, viruses, rootkits, and spyware that collect information and send it to a remote computer for further selling and keystroke logging, by which thieves use tacitly login IDs, passwords, and account information (Life Lock n.p.).
Who are of the biggest interest to information thieves are people of higher social standing since their status is associable with wealth stored on bank accounts, which means it will pay to take risk. On the other hand, such people take extra caution measures; thus, less experienced individuals like aged people may be more acceptable as victims. Letschert and van Dijk (162) cite the experience of New York Mayor Bloomberg stating that no person is virtually safe from data theft. While a person stealing data is no respecter of victim, there are people more susceptible to offenses (Letschert and van Dijk 163). Anderson (23) suggests that certain factors enhances the likelihood of information misappropriation. Thus, consumers who have a good credit record and a high-income status and engage in financial transactions are in line for a data theft. High-salaried or top-grossing people, individuals with a better educational background, and households with women or one adult are among those who stand a better chance of having their ID stolen. The expert defines elderly people as exposed to information stealing (qtd. in Letschert and van Dijk 163).
Still, this category come into collision with other classifications offered by Newman, Megan, and McNally (n.p.) that rate aged people as one of the most vulnerable (qtd. in Letschert and van Dijk 163). Statewide Grand Jury report (n.p.) claims that the crime goes undetected when committed against elderly people (qtd. in Letschert and van Dijk 163). The opinion fully corresponds to the one expressed by Newman and McNally (2-3) presented in the paragraph above. Based on their vision, elderly people and those with lower educational achievement are less likely to detect the fact of fraud in time. Such ill-timed detection does play into the hands of criminals; hence, it is only wise to suppose these categories will a priority. Synovate (n.p.) adds that another reason for criminals to target aged people is that they are less likely to report the misdeed (qtd. in Letschert and van Dijk 163). On the contrary, the number of fraud-related incidents involving consumers aged 19 and younger remains low (Life Lock n.p.).

Rationales behind Identity Misappropriation Crimes

Committed for whatever reason, a crime often has an underlying motive, a reason driving people to go as far as to sin against the society and its members in any way or form. As is customary in the case of economic crimes, criminals often seek to fix their financial issues at the expense of innocent victims who most often never see it coming their way. Absent a personal motivation of an offender, no crime would ever take place, that is to say, there is a reason that triggers a switch to a criminal activity. Identity stealing proves far more efficient than any legal, normal jobs do. Shover (1996), Shover, Coffey and Sanders (2004), Wright and Decker (1994) all agree on fraudsters’ being pushed by the need of money (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 19). Still, even the need of money has contrasting sub-motives. What may serve as a strong temptation for fraudsters is easy money they can get by leaving people thousands of dollars out of pocket and throwing into a financial disarray. Bureau of Justice Statistics (n.p.) cites the opinions of offenders claiming to be able to steal in the region of 2.000 dollars over a three-day period or as much as 7.000 in one hour through check counterfeiting and forging (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 20).
Plenty of respondents admitted theft fetched far greater gains than legitimate occupation or other illicit enterprises ever could. Some even abandoned their former criminal activities like proscribed substance distribution or burglaries so as to dedicate their efforts to stealing other people’s identity (Copes and Vieraitis 20). Naturally, people want to live a life of luxury. To do so, they sometimes need to rob, murder, and cheat for want of a natural moneymaking talent. Copes and Vieraitis (20-22) suggest that the better part of the interviewed admitted to squandering money away on women, fancy clothing, the articles of luxury, illicit substances, expensive food, parties, first-class journeys, and expensive hotel suites. However, this is not to say that all offenders are quick to spend their ill-gotten income about half of respondents lead a traditional life while some combined the party style and a conventional life mode. They create a shell of law-complying individuals with a view to hiding their crimes from family members and friends funding their middle-class lives purchasing costly cars, technological gadgets or repaying mortgages and rent. Wright, Brookman and Bennet (6) state that, based on the confession of a small number of people, it was by the need of money for subsistence that they became motivated (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 20).
Gambling debts, drug habits, the loss of job and subsequently a steady income sources, and family crisis are what made quick money appealing in the eyes of respondents. Oftentimes, people define themselves as pushed by external factor, over which they exert no control whatsoever. One interviewed women cited firing, son’s legal troubles, and lawyer expenses as the reasons for information theft she had committed while another men reported poverty to be the driver (Copes and Vieraitis 22-23). Katz (n.p.) states that, apart from fiscal rewards, there are the so-called intrinsic motivators like the excitement and fun of offending laws since offender manipulate other people and do not know the outcomes of their misdeeds. Perpetrators are believed to experience adrenaline rush they become addicted to (qtd. in Copes and Vieraitis 24). Hence, low social standards and the lack of income opportunities seem to motivate only a small number of people. For the most part, the temptation of easy money or the excitement side of the crime serves as the chief driver.
Identity theft often happens because criminals can steal the desired due to opportunities created by victims themselves. The hands of criminals have come untied thanks to technological progress diversifying the arsenal of approaches of personal information retrieval. Identity Theft Journal (n.p.) suggests that information left unprotected may require the attentiveness of immoral individuals. Thieves are no strangers to rummaging through garbage cans (Identity Theft Journal n.p.). With that in mind, people often do not bother themselves with erasing information by shredding paper documents with identity information. According to Identity Theft Journal (n.p.), information technologies are a greater helper. Thus, for example, phishing thieves use technologies to create a website replicating that of a financial establishment for sending an email providing a link to a malicious webpage and requesting to take some action.

Solutions to the Problem of Data Theft

Congress adopted the Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act in 1998 (Newman and McNally 15). With legislation in place, all that remains is for people to stay alert. With all exquisiteness and aptitude of wrongdoers, there is hardly any way identity thieves can steal data given the use of recommendations that will help keep information safe. All people need to do is protect their personal information, without giving criminals the slightest chance to succeed. It is not that one should act like a secret agent drawing suspicions; it is that people would be best served by staying cautious and avoiding nonsensical miscalculations. USA Government (n.p.) recommends avoiding carrying a Social Security card in a purse or writing it on checks. The same holds true for PIN since debit or credit cards are not a good place for the identification number, nor is a piece of paper kept in a purse.
People would better beware shoulder surfers. Towards that end, they ought to shield the keypad with their unoccupied hand while using ATMs or pay phones. It is advisable to improve mail collection by requesting that mail delivery be held in abeyance for the period of absence. Checking credit report every year, the installation of virus-identification software and firewalls on personal computers, and paying attention to billing cycles are desirable. People will be better off storing identity information in a safe location, without leaving it vulnerable. It is always a good idea to shred unwanted credit offers, receipts, expired cards, account information not to give dumpsters a chance. Unsolicited requests for identity data sent electronically via email or over the phone need turning down. Keeping receipts will allow tracking down unsanctioned transactions (USA Government n.p.).

Concluding Remarks

Information theft is the misappropriation of other people’s personal data like Social Security number, PIN code, driver’s license, a visa and other documents revealing personality for gaining access to their funds or using stolen personal data for the perpetration of various crimes. Millions of people become the victims of information theft adding to the issue gravity. High-income and elderly people, those with a good educational background, credit history and individuals conducting financial transaction come in sight of criminals who make use of both technical, electronic and conventional means like wallet stealing or trash ransacking. Things that drive them are a rush for adrenaline and the willingness to enrich themselves with easy and quick money to reach the desired social status or leave the social income bottom. Technological progress allowing the use of multiple technical tools like gadgets and internet resources and people’s blatant carelessness create a breeding ground for the spread of identity theft. Since legislation adopted in attempts to curb the crime is in place, all that is worth doing is keeping an eye open on personal information, without setting it exposed to whoever is close enough or in a position to access it. Overall, personal information theft is a crime committed for personal economic purposes that leaves solutions like personal information safety improvement.

Works Cited

Copes, Heith, and Lynne Vieraitis. Identity Theft: Assessing Offenders’ Strategies and Perceptions of Risk. Washington: US Department of Justice. July 2007. 1-88. Web. 27 March 2015.
Harrell, Erika, and Lynn Langton. Victims of Identity Theft. Washington: Office of Justice Programs. US Department of Justice. December 2013. 1-27. Web. 27 March 2015.
Identity Theft Journal. “The most common causes of identity theft and how to protect yourself.” 2015. n.p. Web. 27 March 2015.
Letschert, Rianne and Jan van Dijk. Ed. The New Faces of Victimhood. Globalization, Transnational Crimes, and Victim Rights. Germany: Springer Science & Business Media, 2011. Web. 27 March 2015.
Life Lock. “Types of Identity Theft.” LifeLock.com. n.d. n.p. Web. 27 March 2015.
Newman, Graeme R., and Megan M. McNally. Identity Theft – a Research Review. Washington: National Institute of Justice. July 2007. 1-18. Web. 27 March 2015.
USA Government. “Prevent and Report Identity Theft.” USA.gov. 2 February 2015. n.p. Web. 27 March 2015.

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