Dangers of the Internet: Identity Theft

It was shortly after the launch of the World Wide Web that the first online store was launched. Pizza Hut opened an online pizza shop in 1994 and just one year later Amazon.com was launched.

Research indicates that since 2005, most homes have access to broadband though many seniors are still not connected to high-speed internet. The figures have doubled for those in the age group from 25-64 years. This in turn is reflected in increased online shopping figures since 2005. Standing testimony to this is the fact that ‘Cyber Monday’, which was started in 2005, is considered one of the biggest shopping days each year. The increased popularity of online shopping has also given increased rise to the menace of identity theft. Surveys indicate that this is a major put off for many customers. A whopping 67 percent of people polled said they would stop shopping at a particular online store if their personal information was not protected adequately. About 75 percent of the shoppers surveyed indicated that their greatest fear was that their credit card details and contact information might somehow land in the wrong hands.

In identity theft, the thief steals the victim’s personal information such as credit card details, social security number, as well as address and contact information. As per federal law, identity theft is when an individual “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.” In 2009, about 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft. That was also the year that such cases peaked and the figure has decreased substantially. One of the most common scams that people fall prey to are the numerous phishing scams that use emails or websites to give the impression of being legitimate websites to get access to personal and financial data of the victim.

There are certain precautions that online shoppers can take to protect themselves from identity theft. This is important because identity theft is a very serious crime which can have many repercussions that can impact the victim’s personal and professional life. Shopping only on secure websites is one of the suggested precautions. One way of ensuring that a particular website is secure is to check and see if it starts with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. The symbol of a closed padlock is yet another indication that the website is indeed a secure one. Getting reviews about the site from people one knows or from other resources such as consumer protection bodies, office of the district attorney, or the Better Business Bureau, is yet another way of verifying the authenticity of the online merchant. Every trustworthy online merchant has privacy and security policies which are available for review. This will outline what details might be shared with others by the website.

The company may have to divulge information about its customers if it is part of a criminal or civil investigation. Another instance when client details may be compromised is if the company files for bankruptcy and sells its database. Disabling the internet cookies after completing an online transaction is also a recommended precaution. Running anti-virus programs will help keep the computer free of any malicious software that may be looking to steal sensitive information. Using a credit card is considered the safest method of making payments online chiefly because credit card holders are offered a certain amount of identity theft protection. An additional precaution is to keep one credit card for exclusive use online. This way, even if the card is compromised loss and hassle are at a minimum.

To learn more about online identity theft, consult the following links.

Content Created and Provided By Charlotte Gray


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