Home Computers; our greatest weakness in the fight against identity theft

Essay by S.EftinkUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2004

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When we think of identity thefts we usually picture someone stealing a wallet or a purse and using the information inside to gain a bit of short term financial security. A deeper and more sinister cause may be right at our fingertips and we don't even realize it. Have you received suspicious emails lately saying "Your application for home refinancing has been approved," or "your credit card application has been approved." This and other examples of identity theft are on the rise across the nation. How are these bandits getting your information? Alarmingly more and more people are realizing that these culprits are stealing personal information right off of their home computers. In a recent article published by Adam S. Marlin (2003) titled "Online identity theft a growing concern" he illustrated how a California family physician religiously shredded every piece of mail prior to putting it out in his trash.

Yet the doctor was charged with a $115,000.00 bill for medical equipment he never even purchased. The resulting investigation revealed that his social security number and credit card information were stolen from a small file saved on his home computer. Because the doctor failed employ a personal firewall on his home computer, his financial record is now tarnished. Law enforcement officials consider online identity theft the fastest-growing financial crime in the United States. The Social Security Administration received 7,867 complaints of misused social security numbers in 2000, nearly 11,000 complaints in 2001 and more than 30,000 in 2002. This growing epidemic of identity theft can largely be attributed to the use of unprotected information filed on home computers. Protection against identity theft from personal home computers can be effectively combated if owners install and properly maintain anti-virus programs and firewalls culminating in enhanced security consciousness.

One line of protection...