Expert Comment: Online identity fraudThursday 7 March 2013
In the light of recently released statistics, Lecturer in Criminology, Gaynor Melville, takes a look at the role which the internet plays in relation to fraud within today's society.
This week CIFAS, the UK fraud prevention service, released new figures that stated that fraud has increased by 5 per cent, with identity fraud being particularly prominent. As with most crime, fraud tends to increase in times of economic strain and the CIFAS data found that fraud related to pay day loans had risen by 45 per cent in 2012. The fact that online identity fraud accounts for 80 per cent of the overall fraud figures is not surprising, as cybercrime has become increasingly problematic. The growth of information technology over the last 20 years has created a new avenue for crime in old and new guises – while fraud has always existed, of course, the internet has provided many more opportunities for this criminal behaviour.
According to Manuel Castells, society is at present in transition from the industrial age to the information age through our use of information technology. This is evidenced by the use of the internet at work and in our private and social lives, which has led to changes in our consumer habits with the rise of online banking and EBay and in the way we interact socially – in 2012 Facebook had over a billion users, one seventh of the world’s population. This has been a factor in the disintegration of some traditional high street shops, such as Blockbuster, HMV and Comet. The extensive use of the internet has meant that for the cybercriminal the potential amount of victims is almost limitless. The cybercriminal can remain anonymous and disembodied whilst they engage in their crimes, which can remove or at least reduce any ethical barriers to the commitment of crime. For instance, many people might download/upload music without any real concern that they were committing a crime, yet they would never consider walking into a music store and stealing CDs.
Being a victim of cybercrime is also quite a different experience compared to being a victim of conventional crime. Online, we do not have the same fear and we do not come face to face with the criminal, who may be hiding virtually within our computer. This lack of fear causes us to be blasé with our personal details. Unfortunately, hackers are especially accomplished, as demonstrated by Gary McKinnon , who managed to hack into NASA – one of the most protected organisations in the world. This helps to explain why security measures and policing will always be one step behind the cybercriminal.