Online identity theft is increasing and takes different forms

| Sep 9, 2020 | Computer Crimes

Online identity theft is becoming increasingly common, and those the government believes are responsible for such a crime face federal prosecution.

If you believe you are the target of an upcoming investigation for online identity theft, it is time to think in terms of defense strategy.

A little background

The first federal case of cyber harassment in the United States took place in 2004 at a South Carolina court. The defendant had engaged in harassing his former girlfriend for years. A Cyber Crime Task Force composed of the FBI, the IRS, the United States Secret Service and local police investigated, and the prosecutor indicted the perpetrator on 26 counts of violations including sending harassing emails.

The growth of online crimes

Since then, cyberstalking has become just one of many crimes committed online. Among the most common is online identity theft, which involves someone stealing personally identifiable information or PII.

How it happens

Stealing digital PII can occur in several ways:

  • Phishing: Sending emails that attempt to trick a person into clicking on a link and providing PII
  • Pharming: Using a legitimate website URL to redirect the user to a fake site where a fraudster collects the PII information
  • Weak passwords: Entering social or financial accounts through easily accessible passwords
  • Malicious software: Revealing PII through the downloading of malware that attacks a computer’s operating system

Identity theft defense

The entity responsible for prosecuting online identity theft and other cybercrimes is the Department of Justice using statutes such as the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. Since conviction carries a hefty fine and the potential for up to 15 years in prison, the best time to begin building a defense is when you first suspect that you are the target of an investigation.