Identity theft crimes constantly varying in nature
Issue date: 2/1/08 Section: Campus Eye
Though not as common on college campuses, identity theft is clearly a serious crime. There are a variety of levels of technology and practices involved in stealing an identity, and methods of catching criminals of this nature are also varied in technology.
According to Robert D'Ovidio, assistant professor in the department of culture and communication at Drexel, one of the most common means of identity theft stems from computers.
"You have to look at computer technology as a dual role. It can be used to carry out the crime, and I can obtain identifiers through some non-technical means and use those identifiers to make purchases online. That's one way it happens. Or, I can use the computer as a means to obtain the identifiers," D'Ovidio said.
D'Ovidio said that most often, the computer serves as a way to create forged or counterfeit documents using desktop publishing applications. Computers are often involved in obtaining identifiers, creating forged IDs and for illicit or unauthorized purchases, D'Ovidio said.
According to D'Ovidio, this can also make it easier to track down those using stolen identities. When a printer is used to print a forged document, the document will carry a signature that can be linked back to the make or model of the printer.
"Each printer uses a unique signature. You can then trace the individual through the place they've purchased it, just by tracking something as simple as who registered the printer," D'Ovidio said.
Another common method of catching individuals guilty of identity theft involves the use of credit cards.
"If they're purchasing things on web sites with someone else's credit card, it can be as simple as me going to Amazon.com from my home computer," D'Ovidio said.
According to D'Ovidio, authorities can use the ISP, the IP address of the computer from which the purchase was made, and information such as the dates, times of transaction, and shipping address to track the criminal.
"There are a number of ways to skin a cat," D'Ovidio said. "You can show up to the address where the goods were shipped. At times, that's all you need."
However, D'Ovidio added that the process of catching someone guilty of identity theft is not always that simple.