According to many experts, identity theft and identity fraud are on the rise. According to NBC, “In 2012, some 17,094 Canadians were victims of identity theft. In 2014, that number jumped to 20,611, an increase of nearly 20% in 2 years”.
In addition, according to a recent survey, “86% of Canadians believe they are increasingly at risk of identity theft and identity fraud.” For aspiring law enforcement professionals, these figures present a troubling problem. However, before trying to uncover different solutions, it’s first important to have a thorough understanding of these two terms, as well as how they differ from each other. Read on for a quick explainer.
A Quick Overview of Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when a person’s information is stolen for criminal purposes. The type of information stolen can vary, but often involves credit card information, bank account numbers, passport numbers, usernames, and passwords. A person’s full name, address, and mother’s maiden name may also be targeted. In short, any information that a perpetrator can use to steal money, open a bank account, or otherwise impersonate them can be targeted.
As professionals with a police diploma may know, there are many different ways in which perpetrators can steal sensitive personal and financial information. They may take information on ID cards from a stolen wallet. They could also retrieve sensitive documents and expired credit cards from the trash. However, while these approaches are common, more and more identity theft is occurring as the result of data breaches and hacking. Perpetrators may steal information from a large retailer, pose as a trustworthy establishment to phish information, or use a virus to target victims—among many different approaches.
What to Know About Identity Fraud During Your Police Career
It is important to note that identity theft simply refers to the theft of the information itself. Once a person’s personal information has been obtained, the perpetrator may then commit identity fraud. Identity fraud refers to the act of using another person’s identity. It can also include the use of a deceased person’s identity, or using an identity that has been completely fabricated.
Someone committing identity fraud could be using stolen information to obtain a loan, make a withdrawal, purchase items, apply for a credit card, and more. Some perpetrators may even use a false identity when committing another crime in order to try and hide their activities. In many of these cases, the harm done can have serious ramifications on the person whose information is being used.
Preventing Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
When it comes to identity theft and identity fraud, one of the best methods of prevention is to educate the public. While those in a police foundations program may be familiar with how to avoid identity theft, the general public may be less knowledgeable about which precautions to take.
Educating the public can, therefore, be very effective. It is important for people to always shred expired credit cards and other sensitive documents when throwing them out. It is also important for them to observe several other precautions, including using secure passwords online, using different passwords for different sites, monitoring their bank statements, and withholding personal information from parties that appear suspicious. In this way, identity theft and identify fraud can potentially be prevented.
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