By Linda Foley, founder, Identity Theft Resource Center
Each year, the ITRC staff sits down to discuss what the nation might expect in the area of identity theft in 2010 and beyond. We know identity theft won’t go away, however, by using the past to anticipate what trends might occur, we can avoid some pitfalls.
The recession will lead to more scams. Whenever our nation has faced a difficult time, thieves have found a way to use the problem to their advantage. There will be new variations of old scams and both new and old scams will be more convincing than ever before
Criminals will take advantage of increasing unemployment rates by tricking desperate people searching for job listings. These fake job listings and work-at-home scams will eventually end with the job seeker providing Social Security Numbers (SSN) to criminals
Additionally, we might see the increase in the number of individuals – who have no criminal history – begin to explore the crime of identity theft for financial gain. For these thieves, it will be about quick money. Once desperate people max out their credit limits and wreck their own credit histories; they will start to use or phish for Social Security Numbers that they can easily access.
Desperation will lead to more child identity theft and “all-in-the-family” cases, as well as the fraudulent use of numbers belonging to close friends, roommates and fellow workers. It has long been documented that a significant percentage of identity theft cases are perpetrated by people close to the victim.
Nearly 10 percent of our case load, for the past six months, involved child identity theft issues
Medical identity theft, while not a new crime, will reflect the distress of those who have become unemployed. High COBRA premiums, growing individual medical insurance costs, or the inability to afford insurance or medical care, will cause a spike in this area of identity theft.
Insider theft in the coming year will increase due to the failure to follow simple security protocols in the workplace. This will create opportunities for thieves to gain access to personal identifying information retained in databases or paper files. Additionally, the lack of computer security measures and the increasing skill levels of hackers will lead to larger and more financially harmful breaches. It is foolish to think that just because one sophisticated hacker has been arrested, that large, extremely damaging hacking events won’t continue to occur. Also, the need for money might help weaken a person’s normal behavior to avoid crime, and help out a “convincing” guy who says that giving him some data won’t hurt anyone.
More individuals will discover that they have become identity theft victims as they apply for government assistance and/or benefits. The number of cases of criminal identity theft will continue to grow. This type of crime is defined as the use of an individual’s personal information to avoid being tied to their own criminal record.
The meteoric rise in social media use has also created a launch pad for identity thieves. Social media identity theft can happen either by the overexposure of information in profiles or by chatting, or the failure to protect personal computers against hacking.