Identity Theft: A New Kind of Evil
When it comes to online actions and privacy, we are all at fault in one way or another. What most people don’t understand is that privacy is a main issue online as well as offline. We all put our information online in one form or another. We have all used social networking, credit card companies, and e-retailers in one capacity or another. No one can really tell what will, if anything will happen with the information that we put on these websites. There are a number of assumptions we can make but everything online is accessible in some way. When it comes to giving up our information, we are giving up our right to privacy, and, opening the door to identity theft.
Privacy is something seemingly non-existent online these days. With the fact we put our names out on Facebook along with an image gives others “a face to go with the name”. Social networking sites require users to enter information such as “birthday” and “hometown”. Many people do not realize the dangers in volunteering information like “hometown” and “birthday” may be ways that we ourselves recognize things that are important but to someone “phishing” for information, these can be key concepts into discovering the key to our life, our social security numbers.
What I would like to look into here is profile information. Say you make a profile on Facebook, or open a Google account on your new android phone, or even apply for a credit card. What can we share? Where can we share it? Am I going to regret having my information on-line? My aim is to answer these questions.
First, I’d like to explain phishing. Phishing is when someone intentionally attempts to gain information on another person by any and all means. These techniques can include dumpster diving, looking for mail you threw away with personal information, hacking your internet connection; this would include setting up a program on your connection that will track and monitor every website visited and all data entered, also, there are spam emails. These emails usually contain links that bring you to a replicated website requiring you to enter your information then in return does nothing.
The opportunity cost of having a life on-line is the privacy you sacrifice for it. Sure, you don’t have to give every detail to your Facebook account, but a lot of people do, believe it or not. Also, there are people who just add anyone to their friends list. I know a few people who actually do this and it’s a bad idea to do this, especially when you don’t really know the person you are adding.
“People often share personal information on Facebook that criminals use to burglarize homes, steal identities, and stalk victims, the editors explain.” This was reported by Ed Louise in an article about cybercrime called “Cybercriminals Use Personal Information on Social Networking Websites to Commit Crimes.” Cybercrime has become such a trend that many people are starting to think about privacy on Facebook. The creators of Facebook don’t care about privacy and what cybercrime is committed, that’s why they are a dot com. They only care about making money on the advertisements that are conveniently placed on your page when you log in. When it comes to your privacy it is up to you to defend yourself from an invasion.
The same article by Louise I. Gerdes also says “Franken and three other senators noted in a letter to Facebook that a phone number and a home address, coupled with a small fee paid to a “people search” website, could yield enough information to complete a credit card application in someone else’s name.” The letter referred to was signed by Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, Senator Charles E. Schumer from New York, Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado, and Senator Mark Begich from Arkansas. There is so much evidence to support an invasion of privacy by Facebook code, yet there are so many people uneducated on what they are sacrificing to have their favorite “app” or even better, simply volunteering information to the public.
This leads me to a question. Who can see our Facebook information? Is it truly just us the creator? From an article I have read, the answer is no. When Facebook originally started there was a master password that would grant a moderator access to any account. There is no confirmation at this point in time whether that has changed or not however, there is note of at least two people who used this resource and were apprehended for it.
I truly don’t believe we should have to share our information to this length, especially when the service we are required to enter it for is “free”. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the fair trade act, however, my personal information, that if there were a breach of some kind, could fall into the wrong hands and be used for purposes that would harm not only, the credit score I have built in a few short years, also, the life I live due to that credit score, along with, of course, my sanity, in my eyes, is not a fair trade.
This moves me to the next issue on my list, e-retailers. E-retailers are stores on-line that provide a spectrum of goods that could provide just about anything, if not everything that you can think of. E-retailers are stores such as amazon, eBay, overstock, and any online retailer available. Amazon, one of the world’s largest e-retailers, was known for selling our order information to allied companies for marketing reasons. When it comes to companies such as amazon, our personal information is considered a “transferable asset”, according to an article about the same subject by Alcestis Oberg. The author called amazon about their personal information being a “transferable asset” and she was told “that this would help the company better ”serve” me if its corporate allies, such as drugstore.com, knew what I was buying — and, in my case, reading.”
Once you put your information on the internet, it is there. If you delete it, the original trail is only gone from your computer. The server that maintains the website is another computer. This computer has the entry you just deleted off your computer. Granted, not every company releases personal information, however most do. Personal Information in marketing is a gold mine; every company that obtains large amounts of information can potentially expand their client base in a large manner, also, this gives the marketer and the product growth because it leads to everyone eventually.
Credit cards are another issue. While most credit card companies do the same as e-retailers by selling information, finding a credit card number for someone may be as easy as typing their name into a google search. Jeremy Simon says, “But occasionally, with no hacking required, a simple Google search could turn up your credit card number, along with your address.” This was from his article on creditcards.com. The article is titled “Googling Your Name Can Turn Up Credit Card Data”. This is a scary thought. I have Googled my name and have not found anything other than my Facebook along with the fact there are a few people with the same name as me, however, no account information, no credit card information. This was a relief.
Lynn Langton and Michael Planty state “the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account was the most prevalent type of identity theft”. This was based off a survey conducted in 2008. Times haven’t changed much in 5 years. With so many ways to obtain information on someone, identity theft must be a growing concern.
When it comes to protecting ourselves, there are already ways out there that can make on-line information safer and more secure. In an article by Simson Garfinkel is stated “It turns out that we essentially have the technology to solve this problem in the digital world as well. Yet the solutions that have been developed aren’t politically tenable—not only because of perceived costs but also, ironically, because of perceived privacy concerns.” This means, there are ways that are technologically sound for today’s security and privacy concerns that would lower, if not completely stop, identity theft. One of those ways which were described by Simson Garfinkel is an electronic identifying system supported by the government. A technology that is possible. Bank accounts are linked to an ID number on an ID card. This is a system which could be implemented on-line, requiring users to prove their identity with their ID number. This could also work for students as well because schools issue student IDs and those IDs have numbers.
When it comes to security and on-line participation, one has to be generally informed of how things work. I am going to discuss my techniques that have been very good to me and have helped me avoid identity theft. Always be cautious. Unless on your personal or a friend’s personal network avoid entering personal information into websites such as username and password. Spam email is my next topic. If you receive an email and that was not expected, do not click any links. I stay away from clicking links in emails all together. I find this to be a safer method and have actually altered a cybercriminals intention of stealing my identity this way. I received an email about my bank account one day and instead of clicking the link I called my bank, they confirmed that the email was sent by an outsider who was attempting to access my information.
Having a Facebook profile is a must for quite a few people. However, there are risks if you don’t protect yourself. I have at one point in time had everything on my profile open for the world to see then I started hearing things. There are ways to be open yet remain anonymous on Facebook. First, don’t accept every friend request or request random people. This is just an invitation to someone taking your identity. Secondly, don’t have information for the public eye. I have little public information on my Facebook, only my name, birthday (month and day, not year), and where I work, are available for everyone to see. I also have a lot of things stored that are not public, like my hometown, year of birth, keys to someone stealing my identity.
Visiting e-retailers is also a must, however, there are ways that have worked for me and I have not had my identity stolen. I only use the big name e-retailers, Amazon, eBay and once in a while overstock.com. I have my payment information on Amazon however it’s a credit card they issued. I never disclose my bank account on these sites. I have one primary method of payment, PayPal. PayPal has my information yet you would need to bypass my authenticator to log into my profile, so be safe. If they offer a way to verify you through a random code then take it. Sure places like Amazon track your orders but that’s the point to begin with. My payment information or address is not being shared, my phone number may not be either, plus I get exposure to a product that one; I may find useful, two; I may not have been exposed to any other way. I reality though, I use Amazon sparingly.
When it comes to credit cards, I can’t say much other than I have had a few. I never had problems with the way things worked but I did not like the information needed. You need to enter a bank account and routing number to make a payment on a credit card. I’m not a huge fan of this idea but I trust it with companies like G.E. Capital. If there was a security breach and information was taken thousands would be notified and it would be something fixable most likely.
In conclusion, there are security and privacy risks to everything you do. This doesn’t matter if it’s online or offline now with companies keeping records electronically. The security risk does not change at this point, which I can imagine why many prefer convenience these days. Having everything on-line makes life easier, only if you are safe with how you use the internet. Taking precautions and thinking about things go a long way and in the end may safe yourself from a lot of hassle of having to re-claim your identity.