A Brief History of Identity Theft

by admin on July 12, 2011

Identity theft as we know it is a relatively knew incarnation of an ancient crime. As long as humans have operated in a modern society, they have at one point or another conspired to commit identity fraud. Although the first official mention of the phrase ‘identity theft’ didn’t occur in print until 1964, the idea of committing identity fraud was fairly well-known for some time. Take, for example, the plot of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was published in 1955. In that novel a man murders his rich friend and travels around Europe under the fake name in order to benefit from his wealth.

Old cases of identity theft tended towards the personal, and the act was much different than the online crime it has become today. Generally, someone impersonated another in order to get what he or she wanted, be that a job or a way of life. But the act of taking on this other person’s identity was far more complicated then. For example, when credit cards first made an appearance in the 1950s, it was very hard to get credit, as applications were always made in person and required photo identification. If someone committed identity theft back then, they had to go through quite a lot in order to pull it off, so cases of stealing someone’s credit were fairly rare. Instead, identity theft was more of a victimless crime.

Nowadays, of course, identity theft is quite easy and it can create a lot of trouble for all parties invovled. The rise of online identity theft grew naturally with the development of the internet. Email scams and others of that kind are very cheap to run, and when they pay off, they pay off quite well for the phishers. Likewise, those who hack into networks can get a huge bang for their buck, especially if they can get some bank account information out of it. Lighter regulations regarding credit card applications, such as those that allow mailing campaigns, have also made identifity theft quite easy. Thieves need to simple comb throguh the tash to get what they want.. These and other factors have contributed to higher rates of identity theft than ever seen before.

Fortunately, as identity theft has changed and adapted to new technologies, so have methods to prevent identity theft and methods to help us recover if we are victims of identity theft. If you suspect that you’re a victim of identity theft or if you would simply like to read more information about it, then you should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Web Site.

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