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Identity Theft and Inexperienced Internet Users

Identity Theft and Inexperienced Internet Users

Identity theft has been a growing concern over the last decade.  In recent years it has become a major problem for many as the Internet has taken over much of the day to day banking many traditionally did at their physical located branches.  Is there however a bigger concern with less knowledgeable and inexperienced Internet users, and are these users at a higher risk of becoming victims of identity theft?  In a study about identity theft and the retirees in particular, Sylvester (2004) researched the elderly and the risks they face with regards to being targeted for identity theft and phishing scams.  She concluded that the elderly are often targeted at a higher rate because they are assumed more susceptible to online scams as well as more trusting overall.  In addition to this, it is often assumed that this demographic have assets to steal.

Another demographic that falls under a higher level of risk are younger Internet users, those who were born into the dot com era.  Many younger Internet users have been found to freely share more information about themselves online than their older counterparts.  An earlier study in 2005 by Govani and Pashley demonstrated how willingly younger Facebook users were open to sharing much information about themselves on their profiles.  This trend has only continued to rise in recent years as more members of the popular social networking site openly share birthday information, contact information including cell and home phone numbers, physical addresses, partners name, etc.  Much of this information is freely available to anyone because many Facebook users simply don’t spend the time to adjust their privacy settings and therefore is freely available to identity thieves.

Grimes (2010) illustrates the importance of education for user groups that are more vulnerable to targeted identity theft, stating that it is an important tool to defend against these criminals.  While their article concentrates more on older demographic groups, the underlying message of adequate education and raising awareness is of utmost importance.  Younger Internet users must realize the dangers of sharing too much information online, while older users need to be better protected against such perpetrators.  Awareness of the dangers of Internet tracking, malicious cookies and malware key logging software should be increased.

Ultimately the organizations that provide and promote their services online need to take some responsibility in ensuring their users have the rights tools and information available to protect against possible identity theft and phishing attacks.  Better regulations also need to be put in place.  Financial institutions should provide online information for users to help protect themselves against security threats, and social networking sites should provide easier ways for users to maintain reasonable privacy.  Until these more vulnerable groups have the knowledge and tools to better protect themselves against online criminals, they will continue to be popular targets in these kinds of security attacks.

References:

  1. Govani, T., & Pashley, H. (2005).  Student Awareness of the Privacy Implications When Using Facebook. Privacy Policy, Law, and Technology Course, Carnegie Mellon University.  Retrieved from: http://lorrie.cranor.org/courses/fa05/tubzhlp.pdf.
  2. Grimes, G. A. H. (2010). Older Adults’ Knowledge of Internet Hazards. Educational Gerontology, 36(3), 173–192.
  3. Sylvester, E., L. (2004).  Identity Theft: Are the Elderly Targeted?  Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal.  Retrieved from: http://lsr.nellco.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=uconn_cpilj&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu%2Fscholar%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Dsenior%2Bcitizens%2Bidentity%2Btheft%26btnG%3D%26as_sdt%3D1%252C21%26as_sdtp%3D#search=%22senior%20citizens%20identity%20theft%22

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1 Comment

  1. Ghosoun

    thanks! always your posts helpful in my study 🙂

    Reply

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