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Identity theft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Identity taker is a term first appearing in U.S. literature in the 1990s, leading to the drafting of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act.[1]

In 1998, The Federal Trade Commission appeared before the Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information of the Committee of the Judiciary, United States Senate.[2] The FTC highlighted the concerns of consumers for financial crimes exploiting their credit worthiness to commit loan fraud, mortgage fraud, lines-of-credit fraud, credit card fraud, commodities and services frauds. With the rising awareness of consumers to an international problem, in particular through a proliferation of web sites and the media, the term « identity theft » has since morphed to encompass a much broader range of identification-based crimes. The more traditional crimes range from dead beat dads avoiding their financial obligations, to providing the police with stolen or forged documents thereby avoiding detection, money laundering, trafficking in human beings, stock market manipulation and even to terrorism.

According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft is « sub-divided into four categories: Financial Identity Theft (using another’s name and SSN to obtain goods and services), Criminal Identity Theft (posing as another when apprehended for a crime), Identity Cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life) and Business/Commercial Identity Theft (using another’s business name to obtain credit). »

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (2003)[ITADA] amended the U.S. Code, s. 1028 – « Fraud related to activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information ». The Code now makes possession of any « means of identification » to « knowingly transfer, possess, or use without lawful authority » a federal crime, alongside unlawful possession of identification documents.

Some people prefer the term « identity fraud » to describe when their means of identification has been exploited for an unlawful purpose. Others believe the thief does deprive the owner of his identity by replacing his reputation with the thief’s. Both uses of the term focus on the act of acquiring the legally attributed personal identifiers and other personal information necessary to perpetrate the impersonation.[3]

A classic example of consumer-dependent financial crime occurs when Bob obtains a loan from a financial institution impersonating Peter. Bob uses Peter’s personal identifiers that he has somehow acquired. These personal identifiers conform with the data retained on Peter by national credit-rating services. The identifiers include surname, given names, date of birth, Social Security number (U.S.), Social Insurance Number (Cda), current and former addresses etc. These data are all part of credit header information retained by credit-rating services. The crimes are self-revealing. When Peter defaults on payments the lenders become aware. With consumers being credit-dependent, the onus shifts to them to re-establish their credit-worthiness with the lending institutions and credit-rating services.

Less commonly understood outside criminal intelligence and law enforcement circles is the impact of identification-based concealment crimes. As with credit-dependent consumer financial crimes, criminals acquire legally attributed personal identifiers and then clone someone to them for concealment from authorities. Unlike credit-dependent financial crimes, they are non self-revealing, continuing for an indeterminate amount of time without being detected.

The crimes include illegal immigration, terrorism and espionage, to mention a few. It may also be a means of blackmail if activities undertaken by the thief in the name of the victim would have serious consequences for the victim. There are cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, such as obtaining medical treatment.