An average person spends more or less 15 years of his life in school and the remainder of his life hard at work. In the process, he builds himself a good credit – clean and free – which allows him to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Every person strives to achieve a clean slate of records attached to his identity – no criminal records, no financial debts, etc. But how can a person’s identity destroyed without him knowing it? The answer is simple: identity theft. What about what sets you apart from everyone else – your good name? What if somebody stole it? What would you do if someone else were suddenly…you?
In a world of information technology with billions of user information available in just a few keystrokes and clicks, stealing an identity is as easy as counting 1-2-3. In fact, identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the world (“Identity Theft: America’s Fastest Growing Crime,” 2006). Identity theft more often than not involves criminal activities and monetary fraud. According to Obringer (2008), “it involves any instance where a person uses someone else’s identification documents or other identifiers in order to impersonate that person for whatever reason.
” “But stealing an identity is illegal and unethical! ” one may say. True, people caught guilty of this act can be sentenced to prison for months, even years. On the ethical side, the verdict is irresolute. Ethics What is ethics, anyway? Ethics is a major branch of philosophy “encompassing right conduct and good life. ” In essence, it is more than differentiating what is right from wrong. But in our everyday lives, being ethical basically means being a good person, who is guided with morals and has a set of values.
It is concerned with standards for right conduct and moral evaluation. Generally, such will give an account of right action and try to give some idea of what makes it right (Driver, 2006). Identity Theft – Why it is Unethical? Now, a lot of people have this certain attitude that if there are no rules against something then it is ok to do. It is just apparent that, in this day and age, legal and ethical restrictions are stretched to the limit. To remedy this, a person must be armed with knowledge of ethics and values. An act perceived as wrong is unethical.
Just because there are no concrete regulations on identity theft means committing it is absolutely acceptable. What happens now to the person who finds out that, after all his years of hard work to protect his name, someone used his good name to commit a series of felonies incurring criminal records and a credit account that has run up thousands of dollars? Financial identity theft is the most prevalent among other types. A person’s name and Social Security number can be used to open bank accounts and commit credit fraud and bank fraud among others.
They can also be utilized to finance activities of criminal nature. On the other hand, criminal activities can comprise computer and cyber crimes, prearranged crime, drug trafficking, and more. Victims of identity theft may lose opportunities or be denied privileges due to their bad records. They may get arrested for crimes they did not even commit. Worse, they will lose their good name – the name they worked so hard for. They can spend the rest of their lives repairing the damage. It can take weeks, months, even years, and in the end will just leave them frustrated.
Identity thieves use methods as basic as picking through garbage and as sophisticated as mining computer databases throughout the world, a set of imposters may be targeting you and everything you own right now (Jr. & Hammond, 2003). If they are unsuccessful, they could use up your credit cards, wipe out your bank accounts, and apply for new credit cards, even new loans, in your name. Worse, they could sell your house, buy and sell just about anything else you can think of, put you into bankruptcy, and even commit crimes…while masquerading as you.
And you probably wouldn’t even know it’s going on until it’s too late. How do you now that someone else isn’t using your identity right now? Actually, identity thieves do not get their information solely from the World Wide Web. Believe it or not, they can actually get it from your favorite restaurant. How? After delighting in a sumptuous meal, you hand your credit card over to the waiter so they can charge your bill. A certain device, called a skimmer, can get credit card information from the magnetic strip at the back of the card.
This information can then be sold to outsiders, who in turn will use them for whatever purpose. After some time, that customer notices several illicit purchases made on his account. He has no idea whatsoever how that happened. Poor customer now has little choice but to pay the credit card bill. This scenario is not uncommon. An average person can really be an unsuspecting victim. Now, what is truly unethical here is how a person or an establishment disregards the trust given by the customer that his personal account information will be handled with sole discretion.
The customer places his trust on the establishment, and then they do something to destroy that. The integrity of the establishment and the person involved is now at stake. Of course, before identity theft issues become a serious threat to a company’s integrity and business ethics, a solution must be underway. It is but corporate social responsibility to protect their customers, whose personal financial information is coveted by criminals (“Identity Theft and Identity Fraud,” 2008). With this crime, everyone can be a suspect.
Whoever has access to your account information, like your boss or those people close to you can be suspects. One just has to be careful in keeping his account information private and available only for personal use. Be wary in giving out financial information by mail or over the phone. It is also important to run credit checks annually to monitor activities and to find out right on time if there has been any illegal transactions. One cannot just be too complacent with the security system offered in ones locality. Conclusion Identity theft is often an enabling offense – one that occurs in combination with other crimes.
When it comes to these other crime, illegal immigration, terrorism, and drug use are the most frequent (Loberg, 2004). It has been suggested that the simplicity with which it is potential to get a range of forms of identification in another’s name has played an important position in the increasing crime of identity theft. Specifically, it has been argued that the growth of the use of the Internet has led to almost unhindered right to use to personal information about other people as well as providing augmented opportunities to connect in deceitful conduct.
However, any privacy-based dispute is accountable to be countered by an equally forceful declaration based upon the need for the free flow of information in a self-governing civilization, thus illustrating the opposing interests that strengthen any debate of identity theft. Suffice to say that a sustained appreciation of identity theft may eventually demand a thorough re-evaluation of the way in which access to personal information used for identification reasons is structured and controlled. Nevertheless, identity theft is a serious issue with grave legal and ethical considerations.
It is a rampant crime and, though it has no solid legal retribution, it is still unethical no matter how people perceive it.
Driver, J. (2006). Ethics: The Fundamentals. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Identity Theft and Identity Fraud [Electronic. (2008). Version]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from http://www. usdoj. gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft. html Identity Theft: America’s Fastest Growing Crime [Electronic. (2006). Version].
National Ethics Bureau. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from http://www.ethicscheck. com/consumers/identity_theft. htm Jr. , R. J. H. , & Hammond, R. J. (2003). Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Most Valuable Asset. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press. Loberg, K. (2004). Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Name, Your Credit and Your Vital Information… and What to Do When Someon Hijacks Any of These. Los Angeles CA: Silver Lake Publishing. Obringer, L. A. (2008). How Identity Theft Works [Electronic Version]. How Stuff Works. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from http://money. howstuffworks. com/identity-theft. htm