What Is Online Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a fraud committed or attempted using the identifying information of another person without his or her authority. The internet is the major contributor to the rise of identity theft. The internet is used to acquire personal identifiable information particularly through phishing. Phishing is a practice where someone misrepresents his or her identity to induce another person to provide personal identifiable information over the internet. The internet can also enable hackers to access computer database if the databases are connected to the internet. Personal identifiable information could accidentally be placed on the internet through human error. The steadily increasing computer power and the networked nature of the internet allows the linking of large databases to enable information access and it also makes that information more vulnerable to misuse. The speed, ease and anonymity of online transaction further exacerbate harm to the consumer when identity theft occurs.

Online banking, travel and online shopping are some of example of how the internet has enabled economic opportunities. However, concerns are rising about protecting personal identifiable information. Armed with information gathered from the internet through phishing, spyware and other illicit methods, identity thieves steal billions of shillings through unauthorised transactions. Online fraud undermines confidence in the internet and slow growth of online commerce.

Mitigating the problem of identity theft requires an all-inclusive strategy that combines effective consumer education programs, responsible business practices, strong technology tools strong legislative framework and law enforcement engagement. Some of the measures to mitigate this problem include having proper identity authentication mechanism, educating consumers on identity theft and how to prevent it, and finally, ensuring high levels of security and privacy throughout the internet infrastructure while preventing social values. All these actions are important, but they are not enough to prevent costs to the society from identity theft. Identity theft has serious implication to the persons whose livelihood is violated and it threatens credibility of online economic transactions at a time when online services should be driving greater acceptance of these transactions.