Identity Theft: A Cybercrime Shifted in Overdrive!

Our society is driving in the fast lane of technology! The days of your local police officer only needing a gun, a badge, instinct and bravery can now only be seen in the rear view mirror. This acceleration of technology has created a new threat to our community: Cybercrime.

Cybercrime is crime that is committed for any illegal activity that uses the internet, a computer, or a network. Though computers and the internet have birthed many new crimes that previously did not exist, many existing crimes have now taken on a whole new variation. Crimes such as stalking, bullying, identity theft, terrorism, and trafficking of counterfeit goods now requires tech savvy and highly trained law enforcement officers to work these crimes effectively. New cybercrimes born in this technology include computer hacking, network intrusions, and the dissemination of spam and viruses.

What cybercrime is most likely to happen to you? That’s an easy one - Identity theft. Identity Theft is a cybercrime that can happen to anyone - if it has not happened to you yet, it probably will. The Federal Trade Commission lists Identity theft as the number one consumer complaint in 2014. Major companies such as Target, Anthem and Premera have had their data compromised by computer hackers and this has exposed approximately 90 million records with these 3 companies alone. This represents only a small portion of the over one billion records that IBM believes have been compromised throughout the country.

Herbert W. from Texas was enjoying a friendly conversation after church when he received notification on his mobile device that someone was charging his credit card in Florida. His wife and both children were with him at church in Texas when this notification came through. He had been in Florida the previous week. Herbert stepped away from the conversation and immediately called his banking institute to get the details. “I was confused as to what was going on” explained Herbert, “I was a little anxious because I was not sure if there was anything else of mine at risk”. Fortunately, the credit card transactions totaling $750 had not been processed yet. They immediately cancelled his card and he would receive a new card in the mail in a few days.

The residual effects of identity theft is difficult to calculate. Even if the money charged in fraudulent activity is refunded or recuperated - there are many consequences that can result. In Herbert ’s situation he had to wait for his new credit card to be mailed to him. During this delay the cost of the airline ticket he was going to purchase had increased by the time the new card arrived. In addition to that added expense, the original flight was full and he had to get another flight that landed into a different airport than he originally wanted. This added frustration is difficult to measure.

For some people in the community--old habits may need to change to keep your identity more secure. The habit of having everything in your wallet or purse needs tweaked. Do not take nonessential cards and documents with you everywhere; extra credit cards, debit cards, or your social security card should stay at the house when you leave. Also, do not give your personal information to anyone over the phone.

  • Other positive habits you can develop to make your information more secure
  • Shred all sensitive personal information before throwing it in the trash - such as bank receipts, bank statements, credit/debit card offers, bills with your personal information, returned checks
  • Keep a list of bank accounts, credit/debit card numbers, other account numbers filed safely away. If your personal information is stolen - you can contact these accounts immediately
  • Keep usernames and passwords private
  • If you still use checks, do not have your social security number printed on them and when getting new checks—pick them up from the bank - do not allow them to be mailed to you

Criminals are driving at incredible speeds to commit these cybercrimes. Those involved in Identity Theft have shifted into overdrive. Responsible community members can avoid these crimes by getting a “tune-up” and replacing old habits with new ones. No one wants to be involved in a cybercrime accident.