Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CyberCrime: Identity Theft

When discussing the Internet the issue or privacy is bound to come up especially today with the increase in online activity and the prevalence of e-commerce (ex-online banking, eBay, email, facebook, myspace etc). Our lives are saturated with the ease of the internet. I’m an avid online banker for the simple fact that it is quick and easy to transfer money or pay bills without having to physically go to the bank (not having a car definitely limits my ability to get anywhere or get anything done in a hurry). Also, more and more individuals are choosing to shop online because they can avoid long cash-out lines, crowded stores and busy mall parking lots. This increase in internet dependency brings with it credit card reliance and issues of online safety and identity theft.
Do you ever think twice when ordering products online? Does typing in your credit card number make you nervous? This e-commerce trend is putting online users at risk of identity theft. As David Holtzman mentions in his article “Perspective: Identity Theft: Get Used to It” consumers are turned into numbers and are reduced to digital identification keys. “The substitution of these identification keys for the person, while probably necessary, has created an environment that is conducive to identity theft. It is much easier to find a way to get the identification keys that will unlock an account than it is to break a window and leave with a television set” (Holtzman, 2002). Do you agree with him? Do you see yourself as an individual reduced to an online identification code? To access anything on the internet (university registration portals such as Telaris, email, banking, etc) individuals are required to create a sign in name and password…do you think that these fields are safe enough? Holtzman says that computers make identity theft so much easier “Not only can you withdraw money from someone's bank account, trade their stocks or sell their house, you also can lift their professional credentials and establish commitments and relationships under a fraudulent pose”. This is incredibly frightening! Of course there are ways to abuse any system but I often think that we don’t actually consider our own online safety until we are forced to, until we or someone we know becomes a victim of identity theft.
What measures can be taken to counteract online identity theft? As Holtzman mentions members of the “IM Generation” are completely vulnerable to identity theft because of their online presence “They will therefore always be vulnerable to identity theft” (Holtzman). The problem here is that legislation is hard to impose and enforce making identity theft hard to resolve. For more information about Holtzman’s ideas you can check out his article at
What steps do you take to protect yourself online? We all need to consider how we interact with e-commerce and take the necessary steps to safeguard our personal information from hackers trying to steal our identity.

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