Online Identity Theft

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Online Identity Theft: What It Is and How It Happens written by Alison Grace Johansen is an article that provides a definition of identity theft and how it occurs. According to Johansen, identity theft occurs when a fraudster steals your identity through access to your personally identifiable information (PII) with the intent to commit fraud. Identity theft can be implemented in various ways online. Online ID theft occurs when someone steals your digital PII using scams by planting malicious software on your computer.(Johansen, p. 4) There are numerous examples of online identity theft being implemented through phishing, pharming, malicious software, unsecured websites, weak passwords, discarded computers, mobile devices, and targeting children online (Johansen, p.8-14)

Each year 9 million Americans experience some sort of identity theft (Odysseas Papadimitriou, 2018, p.5). Therefore it is well documented that identity theft is common. The most common types of identity theft are government fraud, documents/benefits fraud, credit card fraud, phone/utilities fraud, bank fraud, employee-related, fraud and loan fraud (Odysseas Papadimitriou, 2018, p.8). In an article titled New Ways To Prevent Identity Theft During The Holiday Shopping Season written by Christopher Elliott on Forbes explores the magnitude of fraud during the holiday season. Elliott concludes that during the holiday season there are more opportunities for identity theft. The National Retail Federation predicts online and non store sales would increase by 10% to 12% in 2018, which means more consumers are shopping online, and they are conducting more individual transactions.

The increase in transactions provide more opportunities for bad guys to trick users, hijack sessions, and steal personal information,' says Chris Duvall, senior director at The Chertoff Group, a global security identity theft advisory firm. The risk factors for identity theft are not only because of increased purchases, but also increased usage of phones and computers to complete those transactions. In effort to decrease the incidents of identity theft, these issues should be included in the equation when devising solutions. The reliance on technology has caused our digital footprints to grow at an exponential rate,' says Sean McGrath, a privacy expert and cybersecurity advocate at As long as this trend continues, our personal information will always be more at risk now than it has at any other point in history. It's simple math.'. (Elliott, 2018, p. 15-19)

Article Story

In New Ways To Prevent Identity Theft During The Holiday Shopping Season the author provides a story and examples of unfortunate events pertaining to people being scammed out of their money through online transactions. The article also gives many tips on how to prevent identity theft online especially as the holiday season approaches when there is an increase in the number of people actively shopping online.

Elliott began the article by detailing several stories of people who have experienced theft through online interactions. One of the stories is from a travel agency owner, Amie O'Shaughnessy, she says Someone posed as me in an email to my finance manager and persuaded her to wire $50,000 out of our business account. I was powerless to influence or control what happened with the funds once they left the account, yet I'm 100% liable for the loss. This doesn't seem right." (Elliott, 2018, p. 5) Elliott proceeds to give advice to Amie O'Shaughnessy and the reader giving advice on how to follow new strategies when interacting with people and money online.
The strategies include: using a credit card rather than bank account because the funds are not immediately withdrawn from your account. The use of credit cards usually has more robust fraud protections. It is important to beware of phishing emails from a business. It is helpful to use a password vault because it allows you to properly create, store, and manage your passwords. The use of safety measures when utilizing a browser as well as to keep your browser, operating system and the antivirus solution updated because one of the most common causes of malware is unpatched software. The other safety measures are to avoid easy checkout, and to practice safe computing (Elliot, 2018, p.25-30).

Ethical Concerns

In the Association of Computing Machinery's, also known as the ACM's, code of ethics they include respect privacy. The AMC states The responsibility of respecting privacy applies to computing professionals in a particularly profound way. Technology enables the collection, monitoring, and exchange of personal information quickly, inexpensively, and often without the knowledge of the people affected. Therefore, a computing professional should become conversant in the various definitions and forms of privacy and should understand the rights and responsibilities associated with the collection and use of personal information. (the ACM Code 2018 Task Force: Executive Committee, 2018, p. 20) This code of ethics pertains to identity theft because stealing and misuse of someone's personal information is unethical.

In the Hampton University Technology and Information Technology policies, there are many policies enforced to prevent identity theft. The following policies pertaining to identity theft include: 1. Members of an academic community are entitled to the privacy of their work. It is a violation of University policy for an individual faculty, staff or student to obtain a password that belongs to someone else or to access another user's files or e-mail account on the network. These violations are forms of theft and will not be tolerated. 2. Any faculty, staff or student may not access any file that is not their own unless that file has been made publicly accessible.

This access prohibits the reading, writing, and editing of directories and passwords belonging to others. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, files left on a floppy or hard disk, misplaced or discarded listings on storage media, etc. 3. Posting a message under someone else's name is prohibited. 4. Taking advantage of another person who inadvertently leaves a computer without logging out is no different than entering an unlocked room and stealing, reading a personal letter, or destroying property. 11. The Virginia Code 18.2-152.5, states, a person is guilty of the crime of computer invasion when he uses a computer network and intentionally examines without authority any employment, salary, credit or any other financial or personal information relating to any other person. 'Examination' under this section requires that offenders review the information relating to any other person after the time at which the offender knows or should know that he is without authority to view the information displayed.

Hampton University must comply with these laws and will enforce them among all students, faculty, staff and visitors. 12. Attempting to circumvent the action of system software written to implement protection mechanisms is prohibited. Protection mechanisms include but are not limited to the establishment of accounts, passwords, disk quotas, and time and space limitations. Any attempt to get around the protection mechanisms established by the University is a violation of the disciplinary code. If you find that some action on your part has placed you in violation of the mechanisms, you must report the incident to the Director of the ATM and/or the Dean of Men or Dean of Women. (Hampton University, 2018, p.2-12) Each policy pertains to identity theft. Each policy is set in place to avoid identity theft to happen on the Hampton University campus. Each policy ensures that each person who attends or works at Hampton University identity and privacy is protected.

Final Thoughts

Identity Theft is an unfortunate event and as a result, can have major negative consequences for the victim. Unfortunately, identity theft is very common and it is important to make sure that your identity and privacy is being fully respected. Through my research, I have learned many strategies for prevention and plan to share with my peers. The AMC explanation of the importance of respect for a person's privacy pertaining to online usage is very useful and essential in reducing and preventing identity theft. Hampton University has prioritized the implementation of policies to ensure that students and faculty privacy is respected. These policies assists in ensuring that students and faculty feel safe and secure.


In conclusion, Identity theft is a major problem. Identity theft is very common, however, can be prevented with simple tips on how you operate online. The article, New Ways To Prevent Identity Theft During The Holiday Shopping Season gives several examples of identity theft. The article provides strategies for prevention and explains how detrimental identity theft can be in someone's life. The AMC gives a great definition of the importance of respecting one's privacy and Hampton University places strong policies to help prevent identity theft on campus. I appreciate all the information provided and plan to share tips with my peers and using the information to my advantage in the future.

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Online Identity Theft. (2019, Nov 15). Retrieved November 28, 2023 , from

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