With the increasing role of the Internet in society, the growing risk of identity theft has become a significant threat to one’s secured financial status. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of U.S. consumers that were victims of identity theft has nearly doubled since 2003. This has become a national problem that only recently has been addressed.
The problem exists throughout the entire nation. However, the FTC has named the Chicago area, ‘Chicago-Naperville-Joliet’, as 19th on the list of major metropolitan areas for identity theft related complaints. Illinois was named number 10 overall on the list for all states.
Many computer industry experts predict that the issue will continue to be prevalent in the twenty first century. “The problem of identity theft is a growing concern for the FDIC,” Kirk Daniels, Response Center representative said. The department educates consumers on their financial safety with online banking and shopping. “A recent FDIC 2005 survey estimates that 1.15% of the U.S. adult population [have] experienced a misuse of existing non-credit card accounts in the last year,” Daniels added.
This growing trend of stolen personal and banking information has created a concern in what can be done to help to eliminate future cases. Washington has been a key player in addressing solutions within the security breach of one’s personal information. President Bush first expressed his concern in 2002 – “One of the most harmful abuses of personal information is identity theft.”
In 2004, the President signed the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which created a new criminal charge – aggravated identity theft with a mandatory two year prison sentence. According to CNN Money, the president showed great concern between the connection of identity theft and its effect on the American economy. “Last year nearly 10 million Americans had their identities stolen by criminals who robbed them and the nation’s businesses of nearly $50 billion,” he said.
Protecting citizens from this theft remains a governmental responsibility. This legal implementation of incriminating offenders offers an optimistic outlook to the decrease number of future crimes. The FTC issued, “Identity Theft Victim Complaint Data” in 2005, this report suggests that 1.9% of all cases (255,565) or 2,556 incidents occurred online.
Because of this added risk, online shopping websites such as eBay have begun creating public awareness campaigns helping to fight against the issue. “Operation Bidder Beware” was established to attempt to address this problem. According to a 2003 CNET article, the attempt is still early to determine effectiveness.”The fact is that more companies are beginning to report [the crime] and perpetrators believe there is gain to be had,” Kevin Pursglove, eBay media representative said.
Furthermore, California residents are offered a online privacy protection act (OPPA) on any commercial website s or services that collect any personal information from them. This information includes name, address, email address, telephone number, social security number, etc. The OPPA took effect in 2004 and offers a safe haven for online shoppers in California. But why haven’t other states taken action towards doing this?
According to the FTC, Illinois had nearly 11,138 cases of identity theft in 2004. Nearly 19% of those victimized reported more than one case of theft. Chicago experienced nearly 37% of all cases reported within the state. Consequently, the state of Illinois needs to address this issue soon. After extensive researching, no Illinois-specific ID theft laws were discovered, only governmental officials offering tips on how to “deal” with the issue.
Personal safety within one’s internet use becomes important with ID theft. One feature within one’s computer may cause future financial troubles. Caching, a computer’s way of virtual memory of website s, allows users to save a copy of a webpage for future access. “Ultimately, not allowing for the cache option with these website s may offer a greater protection for these buyers,” Daniels continued. “Perhaps not allowing people to save their personal banking information within their profiles would help as well.”
The Coalition on Online Identity Theft was created by a series of actual technology companies such as Microsoft, VeriSign and RSA along with Amazon.com and eBay to address the biggest problem that technology faces today, identity theft. The coalition group has identified a series of goals with their existence. Most importantly, they want to “expand public education campaigns against online identity theft to protect consumers.” And with doing so, they want to help promote self-help approaches with prevention of future cases occurring.
With a series of groups attempting to create positive approaches toward future risks, the issue of identity theft is actively being pursued as a great concern for society. With better education and greater concern toward one’s personal information, it is likely that the issue may become less of one with due time.