photo album

Topic: Identity Theft on the Internet

section I-a
section I-b
section II
section III
section IV
section V
section VI

Section 1-a: Topic Introduction

Due to the ever increasing capabilities of the Internet and the vast number of people using it, identity theft is more of a problem today that it was years ago. Hackers are using Web sites, chat rooms, and emails to obtain people's personal information, which they often use to purchase things for themselves or things to sell. Sometimes, hackers steal personal information for the sole purpose of selling it to other people and companies.

My intended audience is people of all ages who use the Internet. I feel that they would be interested in this research because most people do not always think before they give out personal information online.

With the increasing number of people using the Internet for shopping, chatting, banking, and for other personal uses, we are becoming more vulnerable to identity theft. My research will help all Internet users become more aware of the problem at hand, in addition to teaching them to be more careful when giving out personal information online, whether it be in an email, a chat room, or on a home shopping Web site.

Through my research, I wish to find information that will answer the following questions:

  1. What are the most common ways that hackers steal identities off the Internet?
  2. How does one protect himself or herself from identity theft online?
  3. What should one do if he or she feels that hackers have obtained his or her personal information?
  4. How hard is it to catch an identity thief, and what are the typical punishments one would face for committing such a crime?


Section I-b: Key Words

UNC Library Catalog
Identity theft AND internet
Internet AND fraud

Lexis-Nexis Academic
Internet AND (identity theft or identity fraud)
Identity theft AND phishing AND spoofing

Search engine on Web : http://www.google.com
Identity theft AND internet
Internet ~ identity theft


Section II: Sources from UNC-CH Libraries

Print Sources
Jasper, Margaret C. Identity theft and how to protect yourself. Dobbs Ferry: Oceana Publications, 2002. KF9365. J38 2002.
Mintz, Anne P. Web of deception: misinformation on the Internet . Medford : CyberAge Books, 2002. ZA4201. W43 2002.

Non-print source
Detecting financial fraud from publicly available source. 79 min. PLUS Foundation, 2000. Videocassette. KF1070. D48 2000.


Section III: Electronic Indexes and Databases

Arnold, Stephen E. “Internet Users at Risk: The Identity/Privacy Target Zone.”
Searcher 9 , no. 1 (January 2001):24 [online], available from Academic Search Elite.
http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=3997428&db=afh (September 22, 2003).

Atanasov, Maria. “The Truth About Internet Fraud (Industry Trend or Event).” Ziff Davis Smart Business for the New Economy (April 2001): 92 [online], available from Infotrac General Reference Center Gold. http://www.nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?rsrc=113 (September 23, 2003).

Berghel, Hal. “Identity Theft, Social Security Numbers, and the Web (the dangers of relying on Social Security Numbers for online user identification)(Internet/Web/Online Service Information).” Communications of the ACM 43 , no. 2 (February 2000): 17 [online], available from Infotrac General Reference Gold. http://www.nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?rsrc=113 (September 23, 2003).

Cohen, Adam, David Jackson, Laura Locke, and Elaine Shannon. “Internet Insecurity.” Time 157, no. 26 (July 2001): 44 [online], available from Academic Search Elite. http://www.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=4690862&db=afh (September 23, 2003).

“Don't get hooked by the ‘phishing' scam online.” Bangor Daily News (September 15, 2003) [online], available from LexisNexis. http://web.lexisnexis.com/universe/form/academic/s_guidednews.html (September 20, 2003).

Waters, Richard. “Holding back the tide of Internet fraud: Online deceptions: Many new ways to prey on the unsuspecting.” Canadian Business and Current Affairs (June 2003) [online], available from Lexis-Nexis. http://web.lexisnexis.com/universe/form/academic/s_guidednews.html
(September 20, 2003).


Section IV: Web Sources

Title: Identity Theft and the Internet
Web address: http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/fa02/schaefer/
Description: This Web site displays the research of a law student, Stephen Schaefer, on identity theft and the Internet. It explains what a person's identity consists of, what identity theft is, and how personal identities are stolen. It also discusses laws that regulate identity theft and gives tips on how to protect one's identity. This site is especially helpful because it puts a major emphasis on identity theft on the Internet and on hackers.
Source: Stephen Schaefer

Title: Internet Identity Theft
Web address: http://www.siaa.net/sharedcontent/divisions/ebus/id_theft.pdf
Description: This Web site links you to a pdf report on identity theft. Not only does it offer examples of both traditional and Internet related identity theft cases, but it also helps the reader to understand the crime and the ways it is committed. This site warns the reader how to prevent someone from stealing his or her identity, and it explains privacy and security policies. This site is great because it focuses mainly on identity theft on the Internet.
Source: SIAA-Software and Information Industry Association

Title: Internet Fueling Boost in Fraud and Identity Theft
Web address: http://www.uplink.com.au/lawlibrary/Documents/Docs/Doc142.html
Description: This site focuses on how easy it is for identity thieves to obtain a person's personal information and use that information to create fake identification cards. It mentions that as long as thieves have access to the Internet and are computer literate, they can use Web sites to make ID cards. Also, it mentions that there is questioning over whether or not the government can ‘police' all of the sites online.
Source: Brian Krebs-Newsbytes

Title: Public Advisory: Special Report for Consumers on IDENTITY THEFT
Web address: http://www.sgc.gc.ca/publications/policing/Identity_Theft_Consumers_e.asp
Description: This is a public advisory on identity theft. It gives a summary of what identity theft is and reveals important facts and statistics about the crime. It explains how the crime occurs through the following terms: skimming, shoulder surfing, spoofing, theft from a database, and theft from payment cards and documents. Most importantly, it provides ways to minimize one's risk of identity theft, and it also offers contacts for people who are victims.
Source: Department of the Solicitor General in Canada

Title: It Wasn't Me: Internet Identity Theft: How the Law is Handling this Booming Illegal Enterprise
Web address: http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/su03/rife_spicer/
Description: This site concludes that the Internet is making it easier for identity thieves to steal personal information, for they are able to hide behind computers and perform transactions. It offers insight into what identity theft is, and it explains that credit cards and social security numbers motivate thieves to steal information. It gives detailed explanations of the government laws in place for the crime, and it offers precautions that one can take to prevent identity theft.
Source: Marisa M. Spicer and Melissa T. Rife


Section V: Dot Com is Doing Many Wrongs: An Investigative Look at How the Internet is Changing Identity Theft for the Worse

 Identity theft is the act of taking a person's personal information and using it in a fraudulent way. Identity thieves often acquire information such as a person's name, socials security number, date of birth, or credit card number.(1) The FBI claims that “identity theft is the nation's fastest-growing white-collar crime,” and it is believed that nearly 500,000 Americans are victims of identity theft each year.(2)

Due to the ever increasing use of the Internet, identity theft is becoming a huge problem because thieves can obtain information easier and faster.(3) Thieves are collecting consumer information from data bases of online businesses, deceptive emails and Web sites, and children.

Many online businesses collect customer information and store it in databases for repeat shopping, thus storing histories of purchases and eliminating the “steps of entering data each time the customer comes back to the site.”(4) When this information is not secure or protected, an identity thief can obtain that information easily.

Identity thieves can also use a technique called spoofing to obtain a person's personal information. By creating Web sites and e-mails that look like they are from a legitimate business, thieves can lure customers into providing personal information.(5)

Children are also being hoaxed into providing their parent's personal information online in chat rooms and on fraudulent Web sites. Since the Internet is interactive and it allows anyone to post sites, it is important to remind children never to give out their own or their parent's personal information.(6)

In addition to the fact that the Internet is providing identity thieves various ways to obtain personal information, it is also making their lives easier once they have the information they want. After gathering the information they need to impersonate someone, thieves can make identification cards to go along with their new identities. According to Thomas W. Seitz, “Anyone with some computer skills can download the available templates for fake identification from the Web and produce some high quality fake documents.”(7)

One of the most taxing problems with Internet identity theft is the fact that thieves can go undetected. Hidden behind computers, they “move quickly, opening new accounts, striking merchant sites with rapid attacks, creating new victims in the number of merchants and volume of transactions that can be posted.”(8) A victim rarely ever knows how or when his or her identity is stolen. (9)

As the Internet expands, so will the different possibilities for Internet theft. All users of the Web are warned to be careful about what information they put online, for identity thieves are on the prowl. To ensure safety, it is not a bad idea to change one's password frequently, use one credit card solely for Internet shopping, and keep receipts and compare them with one's monthly bank records.(10) Scott McNealy, president of Sun Microsystems, said it best when he said, “Security on the Internet. There is none. Get over it.”(11)


(1) Marisa M. Spicer and Melissa T. Rife, “It Wasn't Me: Internet Identity Theft: How the Law is Handling this Booming Illegal Enterprise,” http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/su03/rife_spicer/ (September 23, 2003).

(2)Cohen, Adam, David Jackson, Laura Locke, and Elaine Shannon, “Internet Insecurity,” http://www.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=4690862&db=afh (September 23, 2003).

(3) Marisa M. Spicer and Melissa T. Rife, “It Wasn't Me: Internet Identity Theft: How the Law is Handling this Booming Illegal Enterprise,” http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/su03/rife_spicer/ (September 23, 2003).

(4) Stephen Schaefer, “Identity Theft and the Internet,” Georgia State University College Law, http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/fa02/schaefer/ (September 20, 2003).

(5) “Public Advisory: Special Report for Consumers on IDENTITY THEFT,” The Department of the Solicitor General in Canada, http://www.sgc.gc.ca/publications/policing/Identity_Theft_Consumers_e.asp (September 22, 2003).

(6) “Stopping Identity Theft: Protecting Your Privacy,” Better Business Bureau, http://www.bbb.org/alerts/Idtheft.asp (September 22, 2003).

(7) Brian Krebs, “Internet Fueling Boost in Fraud and Identity Theft,” http://www.uplink.com.au/lawlibrary/Documents/Doc/Doc142.html
(September 22, 2003).

(8) “Internet Identity Theft,” SIAA, http://www.siaa.net/sharedcontent/divisions/ebus/id_theft.pdf (September 22, 2003).

(9) “Internet Identity Theft,” SIAA, http://www.siaa.net/sharedcontent/divisions/ebus/id_theft.pdf (September 22, 2003).

(10)”Combating Identity Theft and Internet Fraud,” The State of California's Department of Consumer Affairs, http://www.dca.ca.gov/press_releases/identityprot.pdf (September 23, 2003).

(11) Stephen E. Arnold, “Internet Users at Risk: The Identity/Privacy Target Zone,” Searcher 9 , no. 1 (January 2001): 24, http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=39997428&db=afh (September 22, 2003).



Title of Web page: Identity Theft
Web Address: http://www.ipwatchdog.com/identity_theft.html
Brief Description: This page suggests that identity theft on the Internet is not necessarily a hacking crime, but says that it is related to hacking in some ways. It mentions that identity theft can occur through scams and deceptions, such as the Earthlink and PayPal scams. This site offers identity theft resource links, as well as stories on the crime.
Source of the Web site: IPWatchdog.com

Title of Web page: Combating Identity Theft and Internet Fraud
Web Address: http://www.dca.ca.gov/press_releases/identityprot.pdf
Brief Description: This site talks about how Internet shopping has changed the way people buy goods, and it focuses on how electronic transactions continue to increase. This site warns customers to be careful when buying things online, and it also offers tips on how to keep one's identity safe, such as changing one's password frequently, using one credit card solely for Internet shopping, and keeping receipts and comparing them with monthly bank statements.
Source of the Web site: The State of California 's Department of Consumer Affairs

Title of Web page: Stopping Identity Theft: Protecting Your Privacy
Web Address: http://www.bbb.org/alerts/Idtheft.asp
Brief Description: This is a great source for both consumers and businesses on identity theft. It offers safe online shopping tips, E-Commerce guidelines, information about Internet scams, and privacy policies for adults, businesses, and children. It also provides very helpful information on other identity theft related topics.
Source of the Web site: Better Business Bureau


Email me: mlinden@email.unc.edu

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