Fastest Growing Crime in America

The United States is crumbling under the weight of crime. Surprisingly, 11 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are now in the United States. Of all crimes in the country, online identity theft is the fastest growing form of criminal activity.

In 2021, according to a recent report by Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft losses amounted to $52 billion and directly affected at least 42 million American citizens.

Since we live more and more of our lives on the Internet, successfully protecting against identity theft is a difficult task for lack of something better. Difficult, but not impossible.

Identity theft comes in many forms. Social security numbers, bank details, driver’s licenses, personal health information, email addresses, and passwords can all be used by attackers.

Why exactly is identity theft on the rise?

Gene R. Lee, a criminology expert at George Mason University, offers several possible answers. Identity theft and fraud have increased for many reasons, according to Mr. Li, who specializes in cybercrime, for many reasons, including “the ubiquity of e-commerce and other forms of digital communication, and the decentralization of information to identify people.”

The digital nature of most transactions, he explains, forces us to “trust companies to keep our sensitive data (such as names, dates of birth, social security numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, and credit/debit card information) private. That trust, he says, is often misplaced. We should never underestimate the power of ignorance and neglect.

This data, which we share blindly, is very valuable because “it serves as the basis for obtaining credit cards, mortgages, loans and government assistance.” While many criminals use the information they collect to request these services themselves, others sell the information on the dark web, a digital underworld that requires special software to access.

What’s embarrassing is that cybercriminals don’t have to be wizards to steal valuable information. As Mr. Li explains, “offenders can obtain personally identifiable information through low-tech and high-tech methods.” In the first case, these are such simple tricks as collecting personal information from mailboxes or garbage cans (on the street). However, he adds, the surge in identity theft cases is more attributable to criminals who use high-tech means “because of the ease with which a single criminal can compromise the personal information of thousands of victims at the same time.”

In 2023, data considered “new oil” is more valuable than ever. That is why the methods of their recovery are becoming more and more sophisticated. At the same time, the methods of protection are still extremely primitive.

Instead of going after individuals, hackers have recently turned their attention to large-scale databases that store information about consumers. This explains why so many large hospitals have been targeted. These are gold mines of data. This fact has not been overlooked by a number of large technology companies that are partnering (and continue to do so) with major healthcare providers. Can we trust these big tech companies to keep our information safe? Absolutely not.

As Mr. Li explains, “instead of targeting a specific person and their sensitive data,” hackers are targeting large institutions that “hold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sensitive documents and files that can be easily monetized by one or another way.” . Massive data breaches, Li warns, have become more frequent in the past decade.

In 2013, for example, US retail giant Target was targeted for lack of a better one. The attack exposed 40 million credit and debit card accounts. Fraud-related losses amounted to approximately $18.5 million.

In 2019, Facebook, which is currently heavily involved in the healthcare industry, was unable to prevent over 540 million user records from being taken and subsequently exposed online. In other words, within a few hours, the data of 15% of the people on the planet was compromised, and Facebook was powerless to prevent it.

Who is responsible for these attacks?

Looking at potential perpetrators based on their geographic location, Li continues, “recent reports point to Russia and China as America’s two biggest cybersecurity threats.” One of the main reasons, he notes, is “the absence of extradition agreements between the US and Russia and China,” which allows criminals to “carry out their illegal operations in certain geographic areas.”

Even if law enforcement agencies identify the perpetrators, the complete absence of extradition agreements gives these actors a lot of freedom. It is important to note that in both China and Russia, hackers often work on behalf of the government.

The FBI is looking for the Chinese military involved in the Equifax hack. (FBI/Screenshot through The Epoch Times)

To protect yourself

It is alarming that people are still falling for the “Nigerian prince” scam, which includes receiving an unsolicited email from someone posing as a foreign dignitary or high-ranking executive. The elderly are especially at risk.

According to Mr. Li, “Many cases of identity theft are the result of interactions with corporate emails in which the perpetrators pose as retailers, banks, and financial or delivery service providers. Therefore, it is wise for consumers to be careful not to take at face value what they see in online messages. »

He suggests that people can protect themselves from fraudulent emails by looking for “signs of fraudulent activity.” This may seem difficult at first, simply because the offenders regularly use the same logos and symbols as real sellers. They also tend to insist that the issue reported in the email is urgent. The recipient is told that an urgent response is of paramount importance.

People should always read and review emails carefully before replying. Mr. Li gives the following example: “A FedEx fraudulent email may contain a subject/title consisting of a series of meaningless numbers (for example, “No. 17283”), or use language that emphasizes the question (for example, “URGENT: PERSONAL INFORMATION SENT TO YOU ‘)”.

In addition, the email address can also be hosted on a public email domain such as Gmail or Yahoo. As obvious as it may seem, large organizations will never send email using public email domains. Large companies, Li notes, “Typically include their company name in the email domain (like Thus, even if the real company name appears at the beginning of an email address, it is useful to check if it also contains it in the domain name. »

Another aspect that deserves attention is the quality of writing. Spelling and grammatical errors in emails are the telltale signs of a scam. In addition, fraudulent emails often address recipients using generic terms such as “Dear Customer” or “Dear Friend”.

Finally, when it comes to personal data, you should do your best to keep it offline for as long as possible. Again, if possible, this information should not be shared with Big Tech. We may request that our social media platform, healthcare provider, bank, university, etc. never, under any circumstances, share our information with any third party without our express consent.

While it’s getting harder to protect yourself in our digital age, being vigilant can mean the difference between being safe and being just another unfortunate victim of identity theft.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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