Phishing and the Credit Industries Role in Identity Theft

Identity theft is an incredibly common and very serious crime, which has a major impact on the lives of its victims. Often, the damage caused by identity theft will go on for many years without being noticed, sometimes leading to legal ramifications for the victims.

In a 2003 Study by the FTC, it was found that almost 30 Million Americans were affected by identity theft during a five year period. Of these victims, about a1/4 of them discovered that they were the victim of identity theft only after speaking with a bank or other business about their credit. The study concluded that the majority of the time, the main goal of the criminal was some sort of financial gain, but about 15% of the time, identity was used for things like evading arrest.

The Credit Card Industry's Role in Identity Theft

One of the reasons that credit card fraud and identity theft is so common is that the major credit companies, such as Visa and Mastercard, will happily write off their losses instead of prosecute criminals. This is not just easier for them to do, as they can just raise the rates to cover the loss, but it also helps them maintain a more positive image.

This philosophy is pressed upon merchants as well, with some credit card companies prohibiting store owners from checking an individuals ID.

The credit card companies are not the only ones with this attitude, however, and many prosecutors won't even press charges unless the criminal exceeds a certain dollar limit.

How Does Identity Theft Affect Us

There are actually a number of ways that identity theft can affect a person, but it usually involves opening new lines of credit, using existing lines of credit, buying cars or homes, and buying cell phones or other electronics.

However, identity theft also is used to evade arrest, such as when a criminal gets caught, gives a false name, and bonds out before it can catch up to him.

Phishing and Identity Theft

While traditionally, identity theft has involved stolen mail and documents, more and more criminals are turning to phishing.

Phishing is used to describe a technique where the criminal will send out a number of emails to a banks customers that state there is a problem with their account or that the individual has won a prize. The email will include a link to a site, which often looks exactly like the banks site, but it is really a malicious page set up by a criminal to steal information.

When someone visits the site, any information, such as login name and password, is captured by the criminal. Of course, there are many types of phishing and often it will involve online services, rather than bank services.

PayPal, which is an online bank used to make purchases and transfer money on the Internet, is one of the most commonly phished sites. On any given day, millions of phishing attempts are sent, requesting the user visit PayPal to fix their account. Of course, the site in the email isn't really PayPal, but a site set up to look like it.

Whenever one of these emails is received it should be deleted immediately, as visiting the site can be very risky. It is also important to note tha virtually t no reputable financial information will request any information via email, including PayPal.

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