“Linda Weaver had two good feet when she opened her mailbox one day in 2005. So she was surprised to find a bill for the amputation of her right foot. Weaver…soon discovered that it wasn’t just a mix-up… [H]er stolen identity and insurance information had been used to get surgery” (Laird). Identity theft is a global issue that has been overlooked and underestimated so many times that it has grown out of control. “Identity theft has evolved into a global issue, transcending national borders and winding through multi-state proxy networks and diverse rings of conspirators” (Wheeler). It is a crime that has become more dangerous with the technology that has been developed. Global issues may seem too big to have solutions, but with the right resources and effort they can have many solutions. Identity theft can be solved and eliminated by combining and improving all factors of security and making it an important crime in the eyes of the law.
There are many ways to commit identity theft. Thieves can both steal any form of someone’s identity or hack into their personal devices and steal their information from there. Identity theft happens all around the world, but it happens more in the US than in any other country. Even though the US is the most common victim of identity theft, the actual thieves committing the crime often originate in Russia (Wheeler). Most of the American population shops online with credit card and they put in personal information on these websites without knowing how reliable these websites are. “U.S. consumers made ID theft the number 1 complaint in the nation for 2013” (Wheeler). Hackers prey on people who shop heavily with credit cards online. They also prey on people who never sign out of important information like banking on their phones. Hackers can hack into phones and get the information of anyone on that phone including banking information and passwords. The hackers in Russia are very tech savvy. Since their economy is so bad, they cannot get the money they need to survive so they turn to hacking (Matthews). Soon every country with even a small dependency on technology will fall victim to identity theft.
One way hackers can steal someone’s identity is by stealing their social security numbers and IDs. Hackers can use social security numbers and IDs to file someone else’s taxes, get jobs and even buy houses. This could ruin the victims credit and stop them from being able to get loans for houses or cars, it could also potentially get in the way of them getting jobs. Hackers can also steal information from ATMs. “Thieves have become increasingly proficient at inserting ‘skimming’ devices into ATMs to steal information off the magnetic- stripe cards inserted into the machines” (Nolan). Hackers are adjusting to the new technology and identity theft is a crime that grows more every day.
Medical identity theft is a big form of identity theft. Identity thieves steal people’s information to pay for things they most likely cannot afford like medical bills. “Using someone else’s name to get health care is known as medical identity theft” (Engeler). Health Care costs so much now that people cannot afford to get the medicine they need to get major surgeries or even regular check ups. Since these things are often needed and could be life-threatening people make desperate decisions so that they can live.
Medical identity theft is not only committed by hackers but also by doctors, nurses and other employees in hospitals. “Many reported cases…are individual crimes of desperation. Others are more calculated inside jobs, according to a 2006 report by the world privacy forum”, says Amy Engeler. The secure files with people’s information aren’t really properly secured and almost anyone who works in the hospital can get to them. Because of the lack of security in hospitals employees can steal files and sell them on the black web and even to other clinics. By selling these personal files they can get money from buyers and doctors can continuously give tests to patients to make them seem sicker than they already are. Selling the files also allows hospitals to charge patients more for extra tests they don’t need.
People who are victims of any type of identity theft find it hard to clear their names, but this is especially true for victims of medical identity theft. It is also hard for them to fix their incorrect medical records. Joe Ryan got a bill from a hospital outside of his hometown for a surgery they hadn’t performed on him. He soon realized that someone had stolen his identity. When Ryan tried to correct his records, he discovered how difficult it could be for victims to clear their names (Diagnosis: Identity Theft). Victims cannot even see their records to fix them because by law those records now belong to the thief that stole them. The fact that it is so hard for an identity theft victim to clear their name makes victims everywhere not want to report it.
There are many people affected by this problem. Identity theft affects many consumers, businesses, and countries. It hurts consumers mentally, financially, and emotionally. Consumers lose a lot of their money and they have to go through the extensive process of clearing their names, which could take years (Danielle). Businesses lose clients because of the lack of security and reliability, and because of the clients they lost they also lose money. Joe Ryan lost a lot of his money because his credit was destroyed and his insurance kept going up (Diagnosis: Identity Theft). It also affects many countries and their economies because businesses start to fail and it make the progress of that country start to decline.
There are many causes to identity theft, and these causes have many effects. One cause of identity theft is that it’s a fairly easy crime to commit. To commit identity theft a person needs a maiden name, a passport number, a person’s place of birth, or a personal phone number (Laird). It does not take much to steal someone’s identity; it is almost as easy as a Google search. With all the resources available today people could easily share tutorials and lessons on how to steal someone’s identity. According to Amy Engeler, buying someone’s Social Security Number is only $20, so thieves don’t even have to spend much to buy someone’s identity. They buy these Social Security Numbers to get jobs and buy houses, this hurts the actual owner of the Social Security Number because it destroys their credit and it also stops them from being able to get a job.
Another cause is the world’s heavy dependency on technology. There is always more data being created, which gives identity thieves more to steal (“Europe: More Data To Breach”). People and businesses all over the world are transferring their important files over from paper files to electronic files. Even though paper files are easy to steal in some ways, electronic files are easier. Thieves who want to steal any electronic files don’t really have to leave the comfort of their homes. “Part of, the reason, Patterson says, is that health care information is increasingly computerized—making it easier to steal large amounts of data at once” (Laird). Identity thieves have more time to steal files than they did when they were just paper. This allows them to sit back and steal all the files they want. If that business or person has no protection any thief could potentially steal all the files and important documents they have. This affects people because the important documents that are stolen could be used against the victims. “‘There are people who cannot get a job or insurance because their records say they have MS, HIV or some other illness they don’t really have’” (Engeler). They could lose their businesses, cars, and even their homes. Victims could easily lose their businesses because their credit will be destroyed and they won’t be able to get affordable insurance and that leads to losing their homes and cars.
Consumers being uneducated about this crime is another cause. “Ann Patterson, Program director of MIFA, says consumers aren’t necessarily aware of medical identity theft, even though it’s growing” (Laird). Medical identity theft is one of the fastest growing forms of identity theft, but because people don’t really know about it they also don’t know what to do when it happens to them. There is also the fact that many companies don’t have systems set in place to warn clients when someone is trying to tamper with their personal information. “There is currently no national standard for companies to inform consumers when their data has been stolen. (Danielle). If the companies can’t inform their clients when their personal information has been stolen, and the clients themselves are uneducated to the situation they wont know how to find out when, why, or how it happened. Since they don’t know about the crime that has taken place they can’t report it. If they don’t report these crimes no one will get justice and identity theft will continuously grow out of control.
It could take years for victims to realize their identities have been stolen. Since it takes so long the thieves get away with it and it takes years for victims to clear their names (Danielle). Thieves hardly ever get caught when it comes to stealing someone’s identity because the crime can be done without the thief actually ever leaving home or showing him or herself. It is also really hard for victims to get help from the police. “‘I was a victim of identity theft but had to jump through hoops to even get the police to cooperate with me”’ (Danielle). They don’t have the resources to fight against identity theft so they ignore it and put other crimes as a priority over it. This makes fewer victims want to report it because of the hard process, and because they don’t report it identity thieves keep doing what they want. Without reporting it victims are continuously being affected by the crime. They continue to lose money and it becomes very difficult for them to get loans and jobs.
There are little to no laws set in place to prevent identity theft from happening. There are also laws that help identity thieves and not the victims. Laws prevent identity theft victims from correcting their medical information, so they can’t get the correct treatment (Laird). This could potentially cost people their lives. It could also make consumers lose faith in law enforcement. Since they can’t correct anything, doctors could give patients the wrong surgery, the wrong medicine, or the wrong blood type. Even though some hospitals require some form of photo identification, thieves can still look get away with using them if they look enough like the person they stole it from. When Dorothy Moran showed up to a hospital with a driver’s license nobody questioned her, even though it wasn’t hers she looked enough like the woman in the photo to get away with it (Engeler). More people commit medical identity theft because the law stops them from being caught. Because consumers don’t really know about any form of identity theft, they aren’t trying to change the laws associated with it (Laird). The laws aren’t being addressed and law enforcement doesn’t do much to help the victims, this makes identity theft one of the easiest crimes to commit.
There have been many attempts to solve identity theft, but an issue this complex cannot be solved with single solutions. Identity theft is one of the many global issues that is almost impossible to get rid of. It is a very versatile crime and so are the hackers and thieves that commit it. This crime not only exists on the Internet, people also get their identities stolen in person. “Millions of Americans have their data stolen every year” (Danielle). Because there are so many different ways to commit this crime it happens more often. Even if it only happened on the Internet the only real way to stop it completely would be to get rid of the Internet, and since technology is such a staple in the world today there is no way that could happen. There may not be many ways to completely overcome identity theft, but there are some possible ways to prevent it from happening as much as it does now. One possible solution to combat identity theft is to educate people. If more people knew about identity theft then they could take measures to protect themselves. However, this won’t prevent identity theft alone (Avira). Identity theft is one of those crimes where people don’t really care about it until it happens to them or to someone close to them. In order to educate people they would have to become interested and even scared.
Another attempt at solving this issue was consumers being very cautious about how much information they put on the Internet. Consumers could also be more careful when they are browsing online and connecting to free Wi-Fi servers (Danielle). Even if people where more careful about the Wi-Fi they connected to, how could they possibly tell which Wi-Fi addresses are safe. Hackers could easily duplicate any Wi-Fi address that people use and trust all the time. There is no actual way to know which addresses are dangerous and which ones are not.
Passwords are very useful when trying to protect personal information. Another possible solution for consumers to protect themselves would be to create unique complicated passwords for their computers and personal devices (Danielle). The problem with this solution is that hackers have the tools needed to get past almost any password or encryption. Besides, creating unique passwords could potentially lead to people forgetting them. Most people want all of their passwords to be the same so that they are easy to remember. However, having different passwords for every account is a hassle that most people want to avoid. “Id you have a hard time remembering multiple passwords, Frost suggests using an app such as 1Password or LastPass to keep them secure,” says Danielle. The problem with this solution is that there is nothing stopping hackers and thieves from hacking into those apps and getting every single password secured in those files.
There are many types of protection that can be bought over the Internet for consumers to protect themselves. Some of these services include LifeLock and Freecreditreport.com. A possible solution for people could be to invest in some type of protection to fend off identity theft (Regnier and Genger). The issue with this solution is that these forms of protection against identity theft are expensive. “Pre-Paid Legal’s core credit monitoring service runs $13 a month, or $24 to $35 a month if you throw in its various legal services, which Gardner says you’ll certainly need to the most ID fraud protection” (Gengler and Regnier). When these prices are separated monthly it doesn’t seem like much, but it all adds up. Unfortunately with the economy of the world today most people wouldn’t even be able to afford these protections.
Victims can’t fix their medical records by themselves. They need help from hospitals and heath care facilities. The solution hospitals came up with is sitting down with medical identity victims and sorting the wrong information into John/Jane Doe files (“Europe: More Data to Breach”). The problem with this process is that it is time consuming and stressful for the victims and the doctors and nurses who work in the hospital. There is also nothing set in place to stop identity thieves from stealing those files as well. Also victims’ names still are not cleared and the consequences of the thefts are still happening. Victims are billed thousands of dollars for surgeries and procedures they didn’t have, and very few laws are set in place to protect consumers from these thefts. There are also very few people in law enforcement who treat this crime like one of the major ones. This is because identities are stolen often. “According to the Justice Departments Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 16.6 million America, or 7 percent of all people age 16 and older, experienced identity theft in 2012” (Danielle). A possible solution would law enforcement treating identity theft like any other crime (Brian). Even though there have been some cases where identity thieves got the time they deserved, this often only happens for big cases and not the individual small ones.
Devices today are one of the main problems because they either have too little protection or just too much information. “Visa and MasterCard… have responded by pressing operators of the machines to equip them with additional levels of information encryption to make theft more difficult” (Nolan). The ideas of providing these machines with more protection and firewall to block out identity thieves are good solutions. In fact many people thought of these types of solutions. Amy Wheeler suggested giving more banks extra security and protection. She even considered hiring “white hat” hackers to fight against “black hat” hackers, which is a good idea, but employers would have to consider the danger of hiring them. If they were to get fired because of lay offs or anything they could potentially turn of the business they worked for. The damage they could cause would be extreme. There were also solutions like building new ATMs with more security and protection (Nolan). There was even an idea to create a device for companies with a PIN code and a one-time password (PR, Newswire). All of these solutions are good ones but most of them are dangerous and expensive. Also none of them could solely eliminate identity theft. There is also the problem that hackers are always thinking, evolving and getting smarter. The solution to this problem is not just setting some things in place and them forgetting about identity theft all together.
There have been many different attempts to solve the identity theft problem. Most of them are good ideas that could actually work, but they won’t work alone. Identity theft is a huge crime and it grows consistently every day, since it almost always takes place over the Internet it makes it very hard to catch the thieves. Companies, police officers, and consumers have all tried many different things to combat identity theft.
Police officers often give consumers a hard time when they try to report. If victims felt more comfortable reporting thefts to the police (Danielle), then the police might even have an easier time catching the thieves. Some ways the police could make victims more comfortable reporting thefts would be for police officers to treat all types of identity theft the same no matter the person or the amount of money (Brian). Police or any kind of authority treating the cases fairly reassures victims that they won’t be discriminated against because of who they are or by their finances. They will be more willing to trust authorities.
Even though authorities play a huge role in solving the problem of identity theft, consumers also have a part to play. Consumers need to get curious, they need to educate themselves (Avira). If consumers are not willing to make an effort to help themselves then nobody else will take them seriously. Consumers also need to be mindful of the information they put online. “‘Any technologically savvy person on a public Wi-Fi network has the capability to see everyone else’s actions’” (Danielle). Consumers need to be cautious when banking over the Internet and even shopping online because an identity thief could easily steal that information. Consumers also need to put passwords locks on all of their personal devices (Danielle). This alone doesn’t stop identity theft all on its own, but combined with all the other things it could slow down identity thieves and make it a lot harder for them to get the information they are looking for.
The authorities and consumers working together to solve this crime is helpful, but it is not the complete answer to fixing it all the way. Businesses like banks and health care facilities also have to do their part in protecting people in the fight against identity theft. More security and protection needs to be added to machines in banks like ATMs, vaults, and safety deposit boxes (Nolan0. An example of a type of security that can be added could be biometric scanning (Wheeler). With this type of security system only the most trusted employees or managers are given access to it. It also makes it hard on hackers because in order to get into the system you need the DNA of someone who has access. The security and protection that is added cannot be cheap and it has to be updated often. Hackers are always finding new ways around newly developed technology, and if the security is not updated often hackers will most likely find a way in. There are two different types of hackers, the bad hackers are known as “black hats” (Wheeler) and the other type of hacker is known as “white hats” (Wheeler), who are the good hackers. White hackers are a good source of protection because they know everything a black hat knows, except they use their knowledge for good. They are also able to anticipate what a black hat hacker will do next because they have the same education. In addition to the new security and protection, businesses can hire white hat hackers to combat black hat hackers. White hat hackers are just as smart as black hat hackers. They know all of the same things they just use their knowledge in different ways. White hat hackers know how black hats think and they have the ability to anticipate their next moves faster than anyone else. This gives businesses a new way to stay ahead of any hacks that could potentially hurt business or clients involved.
Another part of the solution to identity theft would be to make a “national standard for how companies inform consumers about any identity theft on their data” (Danielle). By adding this consumers will be aware of any attempts to steal their personal information, this could help authorities get involved sooner and could potentially help catch hackers easier. Credit card companies and banks could also make more alerts for consumers to be warned when someone attempts to steal their identity (Danielle). With todays technology almost every person has some type of device on them, so if companies started sending out more alerts about when their personal information is being tampered with, they will be able to do what is needed to fix it. All of these things, if they are done together, can solve the problem of identity theft.
Identity theft is a complex crime that has many different layers. There are many different ways to commit a crime like this, but the thieves committing the crime are often very intelligent tech savvy people. This crime is committed all over the world, which makes it an even harder problem to trace down and stop. In order to combat this crime authorities and consumers need to be just as intelligent and self aware as the criminal. Identity theft is not an easy issue to fix, but with the right forms of protection, security, education, and consistency identity theft can be stopped and solved.