Cybercrime: Online Identity Theft

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Introduction

The expansion of the Internet had a substantial impact on criminal activity, contributing to the growth of new types of crimes taking place online. Such offenses are commonly categorized as cybercrime, a concept that encompasses all criminal activity carried out online (Kaakinen et al., 2018). Certain types of crimes that can occur offline can also be organized by perpetrators online, including identity theft. This essay will discuss online identity fraud and how it can be addressed, including resolution, reparation, and identity theft prevention.

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Defining Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the most common types of crimes committed online against individuals and businesses. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2020), it can be defined as unlawful obtaining an individual’s personal information for economic gain. Personal data, including financial information, can be utilized by offenders for withdrawal and transfer of money from the victim’s accounts and loans and credit cards applications (U.S. Department of Justice, 2020). In addition, the data can be utilized to acquire various products and services, including from such controversial resources as Backpage.com. The use of stolen personal information for purchasing services from such a resource can have an adverse effect on the finances of the victim and inflict significant reputational damage upon them. Thus, it is critical to resolve identity theft and ensure reparation and install effective preventative measures.

Resolving and Repairing Identity Theft

Any victim of online identity theft should take urgent steps to address the crime as soon as it is discovered. It is necessary to report identity theft to the police and request a copy of the report. The police report may be requested by different financial establishments and can protect against fraud allegations against the identity theft victim if their information was used for criminal purposes (LaPonsie & Marquardt, 2021). All impacted creditors and banks should be notified to ensure the offenders cannot receive services, such as medical care or financial loans, using the victim’s personal information (LaPonsie & Marquardt, 2021). It is recommended to check all transactions on credit cards to detect unauthorized charges and request banks to close and reopen accounts (LaPonsie & Marquardt, 2021). All passwords for relevant accounts and other vulnerable accounts should be changes. If the victim has insurance against identity fraud, a claim should be filed, and the crime should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission to aid the investigation (LaPonsie & Marquardt, 2021). Overall, identity theft resolution is a lengthy process, but it is necessary to protect the victim’s assets and reputation.

Preventing Identity Theft

Several measures can be used to protect against online identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (2021) recommends keeping financial records and documents with vital information, such as social security and medical insurance cards, in a safe place and do not dispose of them without shredding them. Mail with personal information, for example, bank statements, should be collected as soon as possible to avoid identity theft (Federal Trade Commission, 2021). If possible, it is recommended to request all financial statements to be sent electronically to a secure email address, with the password being regularly reset.

It is crucial to stay vigilant and not share the social security number and other personal information with organizations that do not need it and attempt to request it through emails, texts, or phone calls. Although some organizations require the social security number for identification purposes, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or place of employment, many other organizations do not need them to provide services. For example, a medical provider does not require a social security number to deliver medical care (Federal Trade Commission, 2021). It is recommended to be aware of the institutions that require the social security number and offer different identifiers to other organizations.

Furthermore, additional measures should be put in place to protect online accounts and profiles. The Federal Trade Commission (2021) suggests using multi-factor authentication for all accounts that allow it. Passwords for different request should not coincide as one profile being compromised put others at risk of identity theft. Passwords for accounts with sensitive personal information should be regularly reset and not shared with third parties. It is recommended to avoid allowing electronic devices to fill in passwords automatically. If multi-factor authentication is not utilized, the loss of a device can result in personal information being accessed and used for fraudulent purposes. In addition, no sensitive data should be disclosed over the phone, texts, or emails, as scammers often pretend to call from a financial establishment or medical provider requesting personal information (Federal Trade Commission, 2021). Overall, a combination of these preventative steps can help avert identity theft.

Backpage.com: Considering First Amendment

Backpage.com was a website where users could post classified ads. Unlike many similar platforms, Backpage.com included sections where individuals could advertise escort and other adult services, including prostitution and prostitution of underage individuals (U.S. Department of Justice, 2018). The right to free speech secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was often employed as the defense by the CEO of Backpage.com, Carl Ferrer, and his defense team (Center for Democracy and Technology, 2017). According to the Center for Democracy and Technology (2017), government attempts to shut down Backpage.com should be viewed as an attempt to censor and prohibit freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, in 2018, Ferrer pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution, stating that the website posted content not protected by the First Amendment (Jackman, 2018). Such content included obscenity, incitement to engage in illegal activities, and child pornography. Thus, it can be argued that the decision to shut down Backpage.com did not violate Ferrer’s First Amendment rights.

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Identity Theft: SARA Model

Police officers need to address the identity theft problem in their districts. The Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment (SARA) model can be utilized to identify how severe the problem is and develop a response to target the issue (Hinkle et al., 2020). The first phase is the process of scanning for potential problems that can include the examination of the number of police reports filed by the victims of identity fraud. The analysis phase requires the police officers to carefully examine all reports to establish common patterns (Hinkle et al., 2020). This phase may reveal if the identity theft occurred due to a business failing to protect customer information or whether the victims were scammed via email or other forms of communication.

The response phase includes the police force implementing appropriate intervention measures to combat identity theft. Thus, officers can work with local businesses to encourage requesting ID when customers choose to pay with credit cards or cheques (Hinkle et al., 2020). In addition, the community can be educated through public advertisement and education on preventing identity theft. Finally, the assessment stage will include evaluating how many identity fraud cases were recorded in the district after implementing the intervention measures.

Conclusion

In summary, identity theft is a serious crime that can substantially affect the finances and reputation of the victim. Offenders, who gain access to personal data, can use it to receive services or products in the victim’s name or commit other crimes utilizing that identity. Nevertheless, identity fraud can be prevented by the police force educating businesses and individuals on how to protect themselves and preventative measures being taken by every individual with online accounts with sensitive information.

References

Center for Democracy and Technology. (2017). Backpage.com succumbing to government is blow to free speech online.

Federal Trade Commission. (2021). What to know about identity theft.

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Hinkle, J. C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., & Petersen, K. (2020). Problem-oriented policing for reducing crime and disorder: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 16, 1–86.

Jackman, T. (2018). Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleads guilty in three states, agrees to testify against other website officials. The Washington Post.

Kaakinen, M., Keipi, T., Räsänen, P., & Oksanen, A. (2018). Cybercrime victimization and subjective well-being: An examination of the buffering effect hypothesis among adolescents and young adults. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21(2), 129–137.

LaPonsie, M., & Marquardt, K. (2021). 10 things to do if your identity is stolen. U.S. News.

U.S. Department of Justice. (2018). Justice Department leads effort to seize Backpage.Com, the internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads, and obtains 93-Count federal indictment.

U.S. Department of Justice. (2020). Identity theft.

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