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What Is Computer Identity Theft?

Hackers may be able to break into a person's private computer to steal their identity.
Viruses can digitally steal identity information.
Committing computer identity theft can result in a stiff prison sentence and a fine.
Identity theft can occur from using a credit card to shop online.
Article Details
  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Computer identity theft occurs whenever a person's personal information is taken by an outside party and that data is fraudulently used. Identity theft has become an epidemic of sorts, happening to thousands of victims each year. Many police departments and government agencies have taken on the responsibility of tracking down and prosecuting these criminals, but identity thefts continue.

Online predators have a multitude of ways to perform computer identity theft on innocent victims. After a person's personal data is harvested, there are a number of ways that the hackers can use that information for illegal purposes. The results can be catastrophic for victims, but there are ways to combat these threats.

There are three major ways that computer identity theft occurs, though criminals continually invent new methods. Two of the most prevalent, but easiest to avoid, are email scams and fraudulent websites. Thieves will send emails or create websites that promise great deals or incredible insight. By clicking these links, computer users open up their computer to hackers who can search a user's browser and keystroke history to retrieve names, addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts and more.

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Many computer identity theft crimes happen by users not protecting themselves appropriately. Even if fraudulent emails and sites are avoided, hackers can pull out that same information. Some criminals prey on wireless Internet hotspots to infiltrate a person's computer and pull out data. Luckily, updating a computer's security and avoiding unsecured wireless Internet connections can help minimize this risk.

The results of computer identity theft are far-reaching and are used for many purposes. The most common purpose is applying for credit cards and bank loans using the victim's information. Many criminals also use this personal information to pose as that person when a crime is committed. Another common type of identity theft scam is to use the victim's medical information to obtain prescription drugs illegally.

Computer users are urged to be cautious when online, because theft can affect them in many ways. A fake credit card can ruin a credit rating, and illegal access to a bank account obviously can result in losing funds. Also, if a stolen identity is used for crimes, the victim can become tangled in a legal dispute with which they originally had nothing to do.

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Discuss this Article

ysmina
Post 3

@ddljohn-- I agree with everything you said. It's also important to not fall for those email scams that pretend to be from a bank or other well known company. It's usually along the lines of "we need to confirm your information, so please send us your name, address, bank account number" etc. No bank is going to send an email like that!

ddljohn
Post 2

@burcinc-- I don't think that identity theft usually occurs because users do not protect themselves. I think hackers have gotten very good and can get a hold of user's personal and credit card information more easily now. So it would be wrong to say that it's the users' fault. It's really the fault of the website that hasn't protected the information properly.

Of course, there are things that users can do to help reduce the likelihood of their information being stolen. You mentioned two good ones. Another one is avoiding making purchases from websites that do not have the proper security encryption in place to protect data. I personally only shop from well known, renowned websites with top notch security precautions.

There are also ways to shop without actually sharing credit card information. Using a third party payment system is a great way to do this.

burcinc
Post 1

Does identity theft truly occur because users do not protect themselves properly? I mean what can people do aside from selecting good usernames and passwords and not sharing their personal information with anyone?

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