Thanks to our smartphones, tablets, laptops and seemingly endless wireless Internet access we are now more “connected” than ever. This, of course, means that most people now do everything from their banking and shopping to refilling their prescriptions and making appointments over the web.
This has undoubtedly made our lives much easier, but it is not without its risks. Indeed, identity theft — when a third party uses stolen third party information to open online accounts, make unauthorized purchases, evade criminal liability, etc. — is on the rise, affecting upwards of ten million people a year.
While this is certainly alarming, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has compiled a few tips that people can take to help minimize the threat posed by online fraud.
It’s important to understand that identify theft can be accomplished by relatively old fashioned means such as a person stealing a wallet, purse or mail, or by considerably more high-tech means.
For example, a person may be victimized by a practice known as “phishing” in which an email asking for personal information appears to be valid and sent from a legitimate business, but is actually sent by a third party for criminal purposes. Similarly, a practice known as “skimming” involves otherwise undetectable storage devices secretly recording people’s card numbers as they are swiped/being processed.
According to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, some relatively simple steps people can take to protect themselves from identity theft include using strong passwords/PIN numbers for online accounts, conducting regular (free) reviews of credit reports, keeping important personal information in a secure location, and being careful about the circumstances under which this important personal information is shared.
What all of this serves to underscore is just how serious identity theft really is and just how much authorities are cracking down on it.
Indeed, under Maryland law, anyone convicted of using another person’s identity to secure items/benefits of value, avoid prosecution or avoid paying a debt faces a fine of up to $25,000 and/or 15 years in prison. Furthermore, they may also be ordered to pay restitution to the victim.
In light of these serious penalties, it’s extremely important for those facing identify theft charges or charges for other computer crimes to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who fight to protect their rights and prove their innocence by uncovering what really happened.
Source: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office, “Protect yourself from identity theft,” Accessed Oct. 8, 2014
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