Students at highest risk for identity theft
Predators can hack into your accounts — and your lives
Prior to our cellphones and laptops, identity information was stored in a wallet or safe but since our information has now become stashed on online networks, it is easier to access.
Although this technological advancement has allowed owners to have seamless and convenient access to their information, it risks allowing others to access it as well.
Mount Royal University professor Ritesh Narayan, of the Department of Criminal Justice, compares online theft to traditional stealing.
“If online information was like a postcard going through the mail, and someone has the right tools and intent to take it, online identity theft can happen.”
Through online scams and other online set-ups, the host with the information has power to use it for whatever purpose.
As we use technology in our everyday lives, law enforcement struggles in regulating this new-age crime.
According to MRU criminal justice professor Jennifer Solinas, “Anyone can be targeted. Whoever is [exposed] will be taken advantage of if someone wants something.”
According to a study from Carleton University, the most common identity theft crime is stolen credit card information.
Stolen personal information happens through dating sites, such as “phishing”, when scammers pretend to be legitimate sources to attain personal information. Also through insider fraud and social media such as “scareware”, a tactic that tried to convince computer owners that a virus has hit their computer so they have to download anti-virus (which is actually the real virus).
Social media is the dominant form in which identity theft happens, encouraging users to voluntarily share their information including full name, hometown, relationship status, school location and interests. These are sold to advertisers so they can better sell their product.
Much like the businesses that want to sell products, identity thieves also have access to this information. Copying an identity, uploading photos used for advertising and sharing too much information has made people victims of theft.
“The consequences of identity theft can damage your credit history, your reputation and can delay your progress [financially]. The back tracking required can take over a year to be dealt with and is frustrating,” says Narayan.
Once this information is stolen and used, this crime can affect credit ratings and identity records, which in return, affects almost everything you do.
Understanding how personal information is stolen is the only way users become aware of their responsibility over information protection.
As the “Smoky Bear” of new technology would say, “Only you can prevent identity theft.”
“Communicators preventing identity theft are in the news and social media. Facebook and Instagram should come with an education kit or disclaimer warning people of the ramifications of using their media,” says Narayan.
Online users are held accountable for what information they share, making them accountable for what an online thief possesses. Solinas has provided a list on how to be protected from identity theft: Think before you share your information, check your privacy settings frequently, be prudent and scan your source, know who you’re giving your information to, read site privacy policies and review your online activity.
“When travelling in a foreign country, keep information close to you. Be aware of everything that you put out there.”
Being aware of identity theft is the first step to preventing it.