The History of Identity Theft

August 17, 2007

The History of Identity Theft is all about a booming technology leading to a booming crime.  The year 2000 led us into the Electronic Age. All kinds of sensitive and personal information is now transmitted through the internet.

In the 60’s, 70’s and even the early 80’s, credit card transactions required a clerk to either look through a book to see if your number was listed at ‘bad’ or else they made a phone call to authorize your credit card. This was rather time consuming. People didn’t make too many purchases with a credit card because of the time/convenience factor. With the invention of swiping your card and instant authorization by computer technology, credit card popularity exploded.

The early history of ID theft is closely allied with the history of the credit card. Identity thieve’s first targets were consumers. Credit cards, by their sheer number and indispensable role in consumerism, could be said to have spawned a history of identity theft in America.

In the mid 1990s, 65% of American adults owned, at least, one credit card. That number has since exploded by at least an additional 3 million new credit cardholders each year. After a decade, the history of identity theft was marked by a rapid growth in criminal activities that seemed to be spurred by each new growth in the credit card industry.

By 2005, 67% of all reported identity theft victims complained to the Federal Trade Commission that thieves misused their credit card accounts. That translates into a staggering 6.5 million identity-theft victims in a single year alone.

It is a phenomenon that has displayed itself not only in the history of identity theft and credit cards but in any industry that grows at such a fast rate: it becomes more susceptible to fraud designed by those taking advantage of rapidly emerging opportunities for crime.

Since industry growth happens at lightning speed, businesses cannot adapt fast enough so criminal elements can take advantage of outdated security and laws. This is most apparent in the history of identity theft over the Internet.

New Antivirus software cannot keep up with the rate at which new malware (whose sole reason for existence is to harvest personal information from your PC!) is written. And even the government has found it hard to keep up.

Security breaches, stolen laptops, pre-approved credit offers and dumpster diving have all played a part in the history of identity theft. Too many people have a relaxed attitude or just plain don’t understand the consequences of a stolen identity. Identity theft is here to stay – protect yourself now.


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