The purpose of this research paper is to identify strategies to prevent identity theft. In developing this research paper the three primary areas will be address ethics and how it relates to identity theft, various measures to prevent identity theft and what one might do if they are victim of identity theft. Legal procedures are not always the ultimate solution to addressing identity theft; it is personal responsibility for each and every individual to keep track of his/her accounts and subscriptions. Identity theft can be prevented without the necessity of incurring loss or spending money to ensure that.
Relation of Ethics to Identity Theft
Being ethical is the orderly manner in which the norms of specific areas in one’s day-to-day life observe a certain code of conduct. This conduct may include, being discrete about the activities that one conducts or the activities conducted by others around an individual. The question of identity theft affects a vast majority of victims. For example, there are incidents where people mastermind their own identity theft to solicit insurance companies; bank employees get information of clients and use it to transfer funds to their accounts or accounts disguised as other people’s; illegal immigrants assume the identities of deceased citizens to assume citizenship and health benefits; hackers involve themselves in phishing to get credit card information of unknowing individuals. The ethical implications of these activities show that there is an orderly manner in which people are misconducting themselves according to the norms of the society.
Strategies to Prevent Identity Theft
- 1. Personal Level
An individual has the responsibility to ensure that his/her identity remains a secret and that other people are not up-to-date with where and what information the individual keeps to him/herself. To assume full responsibility, an individual is required to undertake the following strategies to ensure he/she is free of identity theft.
Protection of Social Security Number: Social security number is one of the easy targets of identity thieves and is one among many other areas that require maximum protection. In the event where an individual lives with others, may be family members or roommates. The potential stealing identities can be vested in anyone and thus the reason, friends and family members should not be trusted to access the social security numbers. Besides the people one may be living with the fact that many people carry around their cards, the chance of losing it or having it stolen from them is increased. To minimize the risk of having the social security number used by either a friend or a family member, one should ensure that it is kept in places that none of the rest of people know. To prevent it from being stolen or losing it, one should only carry it with him/her only when he is going to use it. For the individuals who use the social security number many times due to the nature of their operations, resulting to carry funds in inn physical change is a better idea. (Arata, 2004)
Proper Disposal of Documents: Once done with bank statements and any other information pertaining to bank, one should observe that he/she disposes the documents properly. The only legitimate and proper way to do this is by shredding if disposal must be done. To properly dispose the statements and documents, one is required to shred the paper one properly and make sure that the she shredded documents cannot be restructured. To make sure that this window of chance is sealed properly, one should then burn the shredded pieces. By so doing, whatever, an identity thief would have salvaged is gone.
Protection from Phishing Scams: Legitimacy of doing business is in the way parties communicate. Contracts can be renewed with proper channeling of information through specific means and by the right personnel. Hackers are fond of using emails in posing to be legitimate company representatives. In efforts to get information about an individual, they would send emails to clients of certain companies disbursing claims that they work for those companies and they would require pieces of information to rectify or process something. Individuals are required to not ignore these emails completely for there is a chance the claims could be legitimate. But it is unadvised for anyone to respond to mails by filling their personal information and sending. The company, may it be a bank, an insurance company of a social institution would always have hotline where they can be reached on. The individual should make a call and verify if the claims were genuine. In following this procedure, one is able to prevent identity theft without the occurrence of loss. (Collins, 2005)
Regular Checking of Credit Report: The sooner an individual is able to detect signs of identity theft, the sooner that individual can stop the effect of it. To do this one should embark on checking his/her credit report regularly. By checking regularly, one would be able to track down his/her credit bank account activities. The activities that do not coincide with the ones the user is aware of are a clear indication that malicious activity of identity theft is underway. Upon discovering this, or suspecting this, one should not assume may be, he/she forgot something, it is their duty to report the activities to the authority or to the credit card companies. By reporting, the account number can be changed so that he information an assailant has will it be relevant anymore.
Purchase of Identity Theft Insurance: The event of having one’s identity stolen can be damaging to their social and financial status. To secure the future of one’s financial status, it is advisable that one buys him/herself insurance cover for identity theft. Despite all the measures that one would assume to make sure that he is not a victim of identity theft, it is still important exercise caution with all means possible. So at the event of identity theft, one would be in a position to be compensated and the matter investigated o their behalf by the insuring company.
- 2. Company and Business Level
Identity theft basics should be followed by businesses to ensure that their identities and those of their clients are not stolen. Information systems should be under very close monitoring in that no one should have access to those systems. The following precautions should be observed to prevent identity theft.
Securing Business Premises: In businesses, records could be kept all over either in form of paper work or in form of virtual data and in either case identity theft befall the business. The nature of businesses has the potential to attract thieves and identity offenders. The premises of any business should be installed with locks and alarm systems that can alert the authority incase any form of break in occurs.
Securing Business Records:the information that is found on business records bears the personal information of a client and the business. Abusiness should have proper security for its records in order to prevent the access of these records. The records can be protected by being locked in security vaults or having secured databases that would deter access to unauthorized personnel.
Shredding of Business Records: Business records should be shredded before they are disposed. This isbecause there is a possibility that the documents may land to the wrong hands. By shredding, most of the data that can attract attention of a thief would be distorted.
Caution on Phone: There are possibilities that an individual can assume the identity of another and make claims of their behalf. To prevent this, it is important for business personnel to ask the questions and answer them. On phone one could be asked to give the personal information of another; ethically, it is not the duty of a business personnel to do that. He/she should enquire why the information is wanted and then if possible connect the caller with the client so that the claim can be verified ethically.
Limited Computer Access: The computer can store large amounts of data and it is one of the tools of storage identity thieves would depend on to get personal information of individuals and businesses. Computers that are on a network pose a greater threat to security of personal information. To prevent the chance of any unauthorized personnel accessing personal information, computers should be protected with passwords. Those computers that belong on a networkshould be administered by network administrators to ensure that all windows of error are sealed and that access to information is only granted to genuine and specified network computers.
What to do if you fall victim of Identity theft
Anyone can fall victim of identity theft but all in all life will have to continue. In order to continue with life one should use the experience of the identity theft to seal off the lose ends. At the event where unusual activities are suspected, it is the duty of the individual to alert the companies and institutions that deal with that area to ensure further malicious activity is taken prevented from happening.
To prevent identity theft, there are two levels of protecting the occurrence and they are personal level and business level. At the personal level one should ensure that all his/her personal information is kept secure and not disclosed to anyone posing to be from an institution he/she has business with. Upon the discovery of malicious activities with credit card, one should seek intervention of authorities and/or the credit card companies. These activities are best tracked if credit reports are checked regularly.
On the other hand, businesses have the responsibility of keeping safe client’s information. To do this they are required to ensure the safety of their premises by installing locks and alarms systems. Computers should be protected with passwords and those that are connected to networks should have network administrators keeping track of activities and installing proper firewalls. In the disposal of documents, none should be disposed wholly, they should be shredded and if need be should be burned.
If one fall victimof identity theft, he/she should use that experience to be careful in all means possible. Upon discovery of unusual credit card activity, one should report the matter as soon as possible in order to stop further effects of the identity theft.