Law in the Digital Age Profiteeringfrom identity theft:Identity theft is a lucrativemeans by which thieves are able to make a profit once they have access to aperson’s personal information, allowing them to steal money from one’s bankaccount and/or commit utilities and communications fraud. Criminals are able toopen credit card or checking accounts in the victim’s name as well as applyingfor large loans, allowing them to accrue debt while paying for goods andservices without having to pay it back. This is a large problem in Australiawith an estimated $900 million lost by individuals annually through credit cardfraud, scams and other identity theft (https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/fraud/identity-crime) Forexample in the case of Oklahoma woman Regina Fran Webb, the alleged was foundguilty of both unauthorized use of a credit card as well as theft of mortgagesettlement funds.
The losses of Webb’s crimes were alleged to have totalledmore than $800,000, thus indicating the profitability of this crime given thatthese transactions were said to have occurred over a three year period from2009-2012. (https://www.irs.
gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/examples-of-identity-theft-investigations-fiscal-year-2017 ).Utilities and communications fraud is another subset of identity theft andenables criminals to profit off victims by gaining access to their phone andutility accounts or opening up new ones in the victim’s name and running uplarge bills which will be charged back to the victim. This type of fraud ishighly accessible to criminals and occurs more frequently due to the ease withwhich it can be committed as very few details from the victim may be requiredin order for the thief to open these telecommunication and utilities accounts.With regards to communications fraud, a criminal may gain free access totelecommunication products such as phone and internet plans under the name ofthe victim, allowing them to use such services for as long as it takes for thetelecommunication provider to cancel the account.
Utilities fraud occurssimilarly when the thief creates utility accounts under the guise of the victimwhich may include gas, water or electricity as well as entertainment servicessuch as cable TV, Netflix or other internet subscriptions. Unlike identitytheft relating to credit cards and bank account information which is profitableto the criminal in the form of money, utilities and communication fraud mayalso be profitable in the way it allows free access to a variety ofservices/utilities. Solutionsand preventing identity theft:Identity theft can beprevented on a number of levels- it may first be addressed by individualsthemselves, adopting new methods of keeping their information safe as well asthrough the help of government agencies and the police force to track down andstop criminals from undertaking these crimes. One of the most effective and yetsimple ways at preventing identity theft can be achieved by individualssecuring their personal information online; keeping passwords safe andinaccessible, only entering personal details on secure websites as well as installingsecurity software on computers to prevent phishing emails or other methods bywhich hackers may gain access to an individual’s personal details. It is alsoimportant that individuals are educated on various scams that criminals employover the phone or internet aimed at stealing personal information for thepurpose of identity theft.
The AFP constantly enlists the aid of social mediaas well as television and other advertisements in order to run campaigns toeducate Australian people on current phishing scams occurring, allowing for theminimisation of identity theft risk. Identity theft may also be prevented bykeeping physical forms of personal information such as credit cards andidentification cards safe and destroying sensitive material like bankstatements. On a wider scale, in Australia the two main agencies involved withinvestigating and preventing identity theft are the Australian Federal Policeas well as the Identity Security Strike Team (ISST) who are ‘dedicated to theinvestigation of identity related crime’ and ‘focused on investigating seriousand complex crime matters.’ (https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/fraud/identity-crime) Inhaving a dedicated agency tasked with the investigation of identity theft andrelated crimes, criminals are more accountable for their crimes and can becaught easier, preventing instances of identity theft and keeping Australiancitizens safe from this crime.
The ISST are continuously active in their rolein defending against cyber crimes and the most recent ‘Operation Loa’ inNovember 2017 resulted in the arrest of 7 people related to mail theft andidentity takeovers . (https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/seven-people-arrested-isst-over-alleged-fraud-and-identity-crime-offences) peoplein Another important department relating to solving identity theft is theAustralian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) which providesinformation to individuals regarding how to prevent identity theft and allowsaffected people to contact them for further help.
It is government ledinitiatives such as ACORN and ISST that prevent identity theft from occurringand minimise the effects of this crime upon individuals and reduce the time ittakes to recover.