November 8, 2016

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Why Do People Steal Identities?

According to recent statistics, an identity is stolen every two seconds in America. We’re changing our passwords all the time, installing new protective software, and simply trying to be more vigilant about keeping our personal information safe. Some might say, though, that we’re just treating symptoms of a bigger problem.

Yes, identity theft is rampant in our society and it’s showing no signs of ever stopping. But the root of this issue needs to be traced back to the identity thieves themselves. We need to find ask ourselves – why do people steal identities? Who are these people, and how are they psychologically validating their behavior?

A report released by the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to shine a light on why people steal identities. The author interviewed 59 identity thieves incarcerated in federal prisons, and discovered that it’s truly a diverse group of individuals that are attracted to this type of crime. They are for the most part, however, all mostly motivated by the same thing: they need or want money quickly and they think identity theft is a pretty easy, risk-free way to make it happen. Some use the money to fund drug habits or lead more extravagant lifestyles, while other thieves just use the money to pay for daily expenditures.

In general, identity thieves are equally likely to come from working-class or middle-class backgrounds. They have usually developed specific skills that they believe will help them fly under the radar and never get caught. These skills include:

  • Social skills: Solid verbal and non-verbal communication skills that help them blend in
  • Intuitive skills: A heightened sense of awareness to external surroundings
  • Technical skills: An ability to create fraudulent documents or break into computer systems
  • System knowledge: Knowing the behind-the-scenes workings of banks and credit agencies

The U.S. Department of Justice’s report also found that most identity thieves don’t think about getting caught, and use neutralization techniques to justify the crimes they commit. They have a unique way of convincing themselves that they aren’t harming real individuals, and may feel they aren’t doing anything wrong because they’re trying to help others (for example, get money for their family).

So, why do people steal identities? Every identity thief is different and it’s impossible to know 100 percent what is driving a person without speaking to them directly. Hopefully, more will be done in the future to help these individuals who are desperate for money and appear to feel almost no remorse for the crimes they commit. They need to stop convincing themselves that they aren’t hurting “real people” when they steal identities — because the numbers certainly show that there are plenty of real people affected by their criminal actions every single day.

What’s the best course of action to help protect yourself from identity thieves? Invest in identity theft prevention and protection services from IdentityForce — we’ll keep an eye on your identity and help you immediately if anyone tries to steal your personal information.

Melanie Medina

Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at IdentityForce
Melanie is a native of Bolivia who has lived in Boston for over 10 years. She likes to make time to travel, jog, read, and play backgammon. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, Melanie stays on top of her to-do list while also keeping abreast of identity theft issues. Serious data breaches are happening all the time in the U.S. and Melanie loves being part of a solution that brings peace of mind to families across the country.

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