Identity Theft and cybercrime criminology

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Identity theft has become a major threat to many people over the last few decades. Many individuals have unknowingly been victims of these cases, leading the majority of them to seek judicial redress. In addition, innocent people have ended up in the custody of police after their names were used to commit violence elsewhere. This has all occurred in the absence of any knowledge on their part. As a result, the emphasis of this paper will be on the research question: What protection steps are people taking to shield themselves from identity theft? This is in an attempt to find out whether the ideas they portrayed together with their findings match with the current ones. It will also encompass methods used in the process of collecting the data and the analysis. Some of the most common methods that will be used in the case of collecting data will be administration of both closed and open ended questionnaires and conduction of interviews, both direct and indirect.

Literature review

The world has attained great success when it comes to the field of technology. This has led to the development and invention of more complex components and features, almost in every sector. However, these technological advancements have come along with security threats imposed to the individuals, and one of them is identity theft. This is a critical issue that has not only landed people to problems but also betrayed their privacy.

Therefore, Welsh (2015) defined identity theft as the act of intentionally using other individual’s identity for the purpose of gaining some benefits, and usually to the disadvantage of the individual. He added that, in most instances, the victim carries the burden of the criminal making the former to suffer intense consequences. More so, the most common type of information that these identity criminals focus to retrieve from individuals includes the names, special codes or numbers from credit cards, job reference numbers, passwords and even electronic signatures.

Scholarly findings

Regarding the impact that this issue poses to the general public, especially the victims of these crimes, many people are really suffering. Ghernaouti-Helie (2016) stated that the first impact that it has is that it leads to loss of important personal information. According to the study called Cyber Power, which was carried out among 32 employees of a certain bank in Illinois, most of them had fallen for the same. The study found out that, 26 out of the total 32, representing approximately 80% of them, had lost some of their important information to the criminals. The study highlighted that, with the criminals obtaining information concerning the details of an individual, they can either cause damage to the owner’s private information and documents or take them away without leaving any traces behind. As a result, the individual will fall for the worst experiences that life comes along with. This will finally lead to an individual missing out on major chances in life that would bring benefits in one way or another.

Filkins (2016) established that application of an individual’s identity details by the criminals to commit crime landed the individual into legal authorities. In their research ‘Privacy and Security in the Era of Digital Health’, the researchers involved 70 individuals whose identities were tampered with in their lives. Half of the number, 35 individuals, testified that they had been charged minimally by the authorities despite producing enough evidence about their identities. 15 stated that they had evaded imprisonment by narrow edge, because of delayed evidence. 5 had just been released from prison after serving terms of between 2-5 years. However, the remaining individuals preferred not to say anything. It reiterated that, the police or any other authorities for having committed the crime often mistakenly arrest these people. Therefore, without further evidence to prove that they are not criminals, these innocent individuals face the wrath of the law without their knowledge. This is because of the non- procedural measures that most of the crime investigators follow. More intense punishments like facing imprisonment can be effected to the innocent people, who need to be helped on their own, leaving the criminals to walk away freely.

However, Halbert (2016) argued that the fraud of credit card and thefts of identity are two different things that at no time or place should individuals put them together. In his study called Intellectual property theft and national security, he asserted that, a credit card is something that a criminal or any other person could just access but does completely nothing with it. This is just a mere issue that can be solved and even terminated through contact with respective authorities. Theft of identity, on the other side, comes in when the person or criminal uses the information to fake identity so as to gain valuables like loans, purchasing vehicles, houses and many others. He finalised his study by stating that, governments should not cover the issue of identity theft with larger figures, figuring out not so many people are affected by this issue as most nations claim.

Therefore, Tsai et al., (2016) stated that choosing a better password for ones online accounts was the first measure for protection. In their research entitled Understanding Safety Behaviour in the online platforms, they wanted to find out from a group of 200 individuals, half male and female from New Delhi, those that enforced this measure. Using the theory of protection motivation, the study found out that 40% of the females used different passwords on various platforms and considered changing them regularly. However the other 60% maintained the same password in all accounts and never changed them. Regarding the males, 70% used different passwords in the online accounts and changed them on regular basis while 30% used the same passwords and did not change them. From the research, men apply this measure in a more effective way than females. It then stated that, individuals should consider using passwords of over 15 characters in length, combining numbers, letters and symbols. Password managers like Last Pass were recommended for recording and storing passwords. On the other hand, in a study conducted at Middlesex University Apti (2018) found out that, 22.7% males and 27.3% females used different passwords for their online accounts and regarded changing them regularly. However, 13.6% males and 27.3% females were never concerned with using different passwords in their various accounts, with a staggering 9.1% preferring not to respond. Therefore, from the findings from both the literature and the survey, it can be highlighted that men applied the measure more than women despite the lower population turnout.

Mahmoud, Yousuf, Aloul and Zualkernan (2015) highlighted that conducting day-to-day checks on the bank account transactions as another measure against identity theft. In the Internet of Things study conducted among 300 individuals considering equality in gender in the city of Washington, women were found to be most victims of the account fraud. The study revealed that, 20% of the women had been victims of identity thieves. This approximated to about 30 women out of the 150 who participated. On the other side, only 8 men out of the 150, representing about 5% of the total male participants had been once affected by the crime. The researchers gave out the frequent online presence and regular involvement with online marketing as the main reason as to why most men evaded the traps of the fraudsters. Also, the most effective measure from the survey (Apti 2018) was that a large number of the individuals were concerned with their daily bank account transactions. The study found out that, a total of 72.7%, with 45.5% females and 27.3% males strictly monitored their bank and credit card statements while 18.2% females and 9% males did not bother checking their bank accounts on daily basis. Therefore, these findings seem to correspond because it is evident from both the literature and the survey that this measure is the most applied despite males being on the front line.

In addition to that, Arachchilage and Cole (2015) stated that, securing the settings of the browser remained to be a useful measure for protection against identity theft. In their study named Protection against Phishing Attacks, 200 individuals, equal number of men and women, were included and whose origin was Minnesota. They were required to answer the question on whether they clear their login details and browsing history from public computers. It was found out that, 50% of the women cleared their login details while the other half did not. Regarding the men, 72% of them always remembered to clear their logins with only 28% not being able to do the same. This showed that most of the individuals were at a higher risk of being attacked using their login properties. However, women remain to be the most affected and also being at the highest risk, given that half their total number never cleared their confidential details because they lacked the idea. Apti (2018) conducted a study on measures that Middlesex university students take for protection against identity theft. The research that involved 22 students required them to answer the question on how many of them cleared their logins from public computers. It found out that, 54.5% cleared their logins, with 31.8% females and 22.7% males doing the same. However, 31.8% never cleared their details after logging in, which accounted to 27.3 females and 4.5% males, with 13.6% of the participants being unsure whether they cleared them or not. Thus, looking at the findings both from the literature and the survey, many people, especially the women were at risk of falling to be victims of the fraudsters hence the issue had to be addressed imminently. It was finally elaborated that, private bars or browsing sessions should be used in public computers, using the browser’s latest version that has security features and more importantly, encrypting the browsing sessions using the latest technological tools and software available.

Moreover, Kahn and Liñares-Zegarra (2016) outlined that, avoiding posting confidential information to online platforms was another personal measure for protection against identity theft. In the study called Choice of Payment and Identity Theft, the researchers wanted to find out how often individuals posted information about them on the social networks. The research included 50 male and also 50 female participants from Chicago, who owned devices like smartphones, laptops or even desktop computers that enabled them to interact freely with the platforms. The results of the study then revealed that, 70% of the females often posted their information on the social media platforms while 48% of the males considered doing the same. It highlighted that, most women failed to adhere to this measure because they wanted to become more popular and earn praises for their qualities like fashion and hairstyles. Importantly, de Bruijn and Janssen (2017) added that, educating the public on the critical issues concerning identity theft was a good measure in kicking out identity criminals. The study, referred to as Building Awareness on Cyber security, aimed at finding out whether individuals fully understood what was meant by cybercrime. Also, the strategy was evidence-based framing and the measure applied being the fear appeal. 120 individuals, who involved half the number of men and women, were chosen to participate in the research. The first that was asked was whether the individuals understood the meaning of identity theft. Therefore they were requited to give a definition on what they thought it was. From the answers that the individuals gave, most of them defined identity theft as an illegal possession of an individual’s private material or documents by an unknown person, usually an identity criminal. The study found this defining to be lacking the strength it needs to possess. The individuals quickly forgot that even the people they knew could still get their documents and pick important information from them. The study then concluded that, individual persons themselves could give out their information not knowing that the criminals will have access of it. This leads to many problems later on like losing important personal data.

It can be noted that people irrespective of their classes in the society currently know little about the whole issue of identity theft. Many people have continued to lose important information without possessing the full idea that they are losing it to identity criminals. The effects of these actions come to be known later on and by the time the individual realizes, it is always too late. Finally, administration of questionnaires, conduction of interviews and collection of information from secondary sources are the methods that were majorly considered while the fear appeal strategy was also used.

Conclusion

Overall, identity theft is affecting large proportion of individuals without their own knowledge. It has however been defined bay many as an act of intentionally acquiring the identity of another person for the purpose of benefitting oneself, which usually hurts the individual victim. As a result of this, its impacts are always very critical to the victim, resulting to things like lose of important personal or company data and in some instances leading to imprisonment. Therefore, the research question in this paper is: What security measures are people taking to protect themselves from identity theft? From the discussion of the literature above, several measures that people employ against cybercrime can be highlighted. The first security measure is choosing passwords wisely for use in the online platforms to avoid easy break ins by the hackers. Another measure that can be retrieved is that, individuals should become used to conducting day-to-day check-ins on their day to day bank account transactions. This measure will put them out of the pressure of abruptly falling to the anonymous transactions that can be carried out unknowingly by the fraudsters. Adding to the same, securing the settings of the browser an individual is using stands to be another important measure in the prevention of attack from these identity criminals. Securing settings would then include processes like applying encryption to the data, using private browsing sessions and many more. Besides that, another measure for protection against identity theft is avoiding to post confidential information to the online social medial platforms. These platforms are often times the homes for most of the criminals, who just wait for a user to post any data so that they can use it in hacking into various accounts. Finally, educating the public so as to create awareness also remains to be a greater measure in ensuring that all criminals’ routes are blocked.

References

Apti, 2018

Arachchilage, N.A.G. and Cole, M., 2016. Designing a mobile game for home computer users to protect against phishing attacks. arXiv preprint arXiv:1602.03929

De Bruijn, H. and Janssen, M., 2017. Building cybersecurity awareness: The need for evidence-based framing strategies. Government Information Quarterly, 34(1), pp.1-7.

Ghernaouti-Helie, S., 2016. Cyber Power: Crime, Conflict and Security in Cyberspace. EPFL Press.

Halbert, D., 2016. Intellectual property theft and national security: Agendas and assumptions. The Information Society, 32(4), pp.256-268.

Kahn, C.M. and Liñares-Zegarra, J.M., 2016. Identity theft and consumer payment choice: Does security really matter?. Journal of Financial Services Research, 50(1), pp.121-159.

Filkins, B.L., Kim, J.Y., Roberts, B., Armstrong, W., Miller, M.A., Hultner, M.L., Castillo, A.P., Ducom, J.C., Topol, E.J. and Steinhubl, S.R., 2016. Privacy and security in the era of digital health: what should translational researchers know and do about it?. American journal of translational research, 8(3), p.1560.

Mahmoud, R., Yousuf, T., Aloul, F. and Zualkernan, I., 2015, December. Internet of things (IoT) security: Current status, challenges and prospective measures. In Internet Technology and Secured Transactions (ICITST), 2015 10th International Conference for (pp. 336-341). IEEE.

Posey, C., Roberts, T.L., Lowry, P.B. and Hightower, R.T., 2014. Bridging the divide: A qualitative comparison of information security thought patterns between information security professionals and ordinary organizational insiders. Information & management, 51(5), pp.551-567.

Tsai, H.Y.S., Jiang, M., Alhabash, S., LaRose, R., Rifon, N.J. and Cotten, S.R., 2016. Understanding online safety behaviors: A protection motivation theory perspective. Computers & Security, 59, pp.138-150.

Welsh, A., 2015. The Identity Theft Protection Guide:* Safeguard Your Family* Protect Your Privacy* Recover a Stolen Identity. St. Martin’s Griffin.

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