Identity Theft Essay Conclusion Examples

Solving Identity Theft

Identity theft is the information age's new crime. A criminal collects enough personal data on the victim to impersonate him to banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions. Then he racks up debt in the victim's name, collects the cash and disappears. The victim is left holding the bag.

While some of the losses are absorbed by financial institutions--credit card companies in particular--the credit-rating damage is borne by the victim. It can take years for the victim to completely clear his name.

So far, we've seen several "solutions" to this problem: forcing companies to disclose when they lose personal information, forcing companies to secure personal information, forcing financial institutions to enhance their authentication procedures. Unfortunately, these won't help.

To see why, we need to start with the basics. The very term "identity theft" is an oxymoron. Identity is not a possession that can be acquired or lost; it's not a thing at all. Someone's identity is the one thing about a person that cannot be stolen.

The real crime here is fraud--more specifically, impersonation leading to fraud. Impersonation is an ancient crime, but the rise of information-based credentials gives it a modern spin.

A criminal impersonates a victim online and steals money from his account. He impersonates a victim in order to deceive financial institutions into granting credit to the criminal in the victim's name. He impersonates a victim to the post office and gets the victim's address changed. He impersonates a victim in order to fool the police into arresting the wrong man. No one's identity is stolen; instead, identity information is being misused to commit fraud.

Such crime involves two very separate issues. The first is the privacy of personal data. Personal privacy is important for many reasons, one of which is impersonation and fraud. As more information about us is collected, correlated and sold, it becomes easier for criminals to get their hands on the data they need to commit fraud.

This is what you read about in the news: personal information stolen from companies, banks, universities, government databases.

But data privacy is about more than just fraud. Whether it is the books we take out of the library, the Web sites we visit or the contents of our text messages, most of us have personal data on third-party computers that we don't want made public. The posting of Paris Hilton's phone book on the Internet is a celebrity example of this.

The second issue is the ease with which a criminal can use personal data to commit fraud. It doesn't take much personal information to apply for a credit card in someone else's name. It's not that hard to conduct fraudulent bank transactions in someone else's name.

And it's surprisingly easy to get an identification card in someone else's name. Our current culture, where identity is verified simply and sloppily, makes it easier for a criminal to impersonate his victim.

Proposed fixes tend to concentrate on the first issue--making personal data harder to steal--whereas the real problem is the second. If we're ever going to manage the risks and effects of electronic impersonation, we must concentrate on preventing and detecting fraudulent transactions.

Fraudulent transactions have nothing to do with the legitimate account holders. Criminals impersonate legitimate users to financial institutions. That means that any solution can't involve the account holders.

That leaves only one reasonable answer: financial institutions need to be liable for the cost of fraudulent transactions. They need to be liable for sending erroneous information to credit bureaus based on fraudulent transactions.

They should not be able to demand that the user must keep his password secure or his machine virus-free. They should not be able to require the user to monitor his accounts for fraudulent activity, or his credit reports for fraudulently obtained credit cards. Those aren't reasonable requirements for most users. The bank must be responsible, regardless of what the user does.

If you think this won't work, look at credit cards. Credit card companies like American Express are generally liable for all but the first $50 of fraudulent transactions. They're not hurting for business; and they're not drowning in fraud either.

They've developed and fielded an array of security technologies designed to detect and prevent fraudulent transactions. They've pushed most of the actual costs onto the merchants. And almost no security centers around are trying to authenticate the cardholder.

That's an important lesson. Identity theft solutions focus much too much on authenticating the person. Whether it's two-factor authentication--ID cards, biometrics, or whatever--there's a widespread myth that authenticating the person is the way to prevent these crimes.

But once you understand that the problem is fraudulent transactions, you quickly realize that authenticating the transaction, not the person, is the way to proceed.

Again, think about credit cards. Store clerks barely verify signatures when people use cards. People can use credit cards to buy things by mail, phone or Internet, where no one verifies the signature or even that you have possession of the card.

Even worse, no credit card company mandates secure storage requirements for credit cards. They don't demand that cardholders secure their wallets in any particular way. Credit card companies simply don't worry about verifying the cardholder or putting requirements on what he does. They concentrate on verifying the transaction.

This same sort of thinking needs to be applied to other areas where criminals use impersonation to commit fraud. I don't know what the final solutions will look like, but I do know that once financial institutions are liable for losses due to these types of fraud, they will find solutions.

Maybe there will be a daily withdrawal limit, like there is on ATMs. Maybe large transactions will be delayed for a period of time, or will require a call-back from the bank or brokerage company. Maybe people will no longer be able to open a credit card account by simply filling in a bunch of information on a form.

Likely the solution will be a combination of solutions that reduces fraudulent transactions to a manageable level, but we'll never know until the financial institutions have the financial incentive to put them in place.

Right now, the economic incentives result in financial institutions that are so eager to allow transactions--new credit cards, cash transfers, whatever--that they're not paying enough attention to fraudulent transactions. They've pushed the costs for fraud onto the merchants.

But if they're liable for losses and damages to legitimate users, they'll pay more attention. And they'll mitigate the risks. Security technologies can work wonders in preventing identity theft, once the economic incentives to apply them are there.

By focusing on the fraudulent use of personal data, I do not mean to minimize the harm caused by other misuse of third-party data and violations of privacy. I believe that the U.S. would be well-served by a comprehensive Data Protection Act such as exists in the European Union. However, I do not believe that a law of this type would significantly reduce the risk of fraudulent impersonation.

To mitigate that risk, we need to concentrate on detecting and preventing fraudulent transactions. We need to make the entity, which is in the best position to mitigate the risk, responsible for that risk. And that means making the financial institutions liable for fraudulent transactions.

Doing anything less simply won't work.

Categories: Computer and Information Security, Identity Theft

Tags: Forbes

The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn’t fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the paper. This is the place to push your reader to think about the consequences of your topic for the wider world or for the reader's own life!

A good conclusion should do a few things:

  • Restate your thesis
  • Synthesize or summarize your major points
  • Make the context of your argument clear

Restating Your Thesis

You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement. That's why it's so important to address the thesis in your conclusion! Many writers choose to begin the conclusion by restating the thesis, but you can put your thesis into the conclusion anywhere—the first sentence of the paragraph, the last sentence, or in between. Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis:

  • Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. For example, if you're arguing that your readers should get their pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores, you might say, "If you were considering that puppy in the pet-shop window, remember that your purchase will support 'puppy mills' instead of rescuing a needy dog, and consider selecting your new friend at your local animal shelter." This example gives the reader not only the thesis of the paper, but a reminder of the most powerful point in the argument!
  • Revise the thesis statement so that it reflects the relationship you've developed with the reader during the paper. For example, if you've written a paper that targets parents of young children, you can find a way to phrase your thesis to capitalize on that—maybe by beginning your thesis statement with, "As a parent of a young child…"
  • Don’t repeat your thesis word for word—make sure that your new statement is an independent, fresh sentence!

Summary or Synthesis

This section of the conclusion might come before the thesis statement or after it. Your conclusion should remind the reader of what your paper actually says! The best conclusion will include a synthesis, not just a summary—instead of a mere list of your major points, the best conclusion will draw those points together and relate them to one another so that your reader can apply the information given in the essay. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

  • Give a list of the major arguments for your thesis (usually, these are the topic sentences of the parts of your essay).
  • Explain how these parts are connected. For example, in the animal-shelter essay, you might point out that adopting a shelter dog helps more animals because your adoption fee supports the shelter, which makes your choice more socially responsible.

Context

One of the most important functions of the conclusion is to provide context for your argument. Your reader may finish your essay without a problem and understand your argument without understanding why that argument is important. Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:

  • Tell the reader what you want him or her to do. Is your essay a call to action? If so, remind the reader of what he/she should do. If not, remember that asking the reader to think a certain way is an action in itself. (In the above examples, the essay asks the reader to adopt a shelter dog—a specific action.)
  • Explain why this topic is timely or important. For example, the animal-shelter essay might end with a statistic about the number of pets in shelters waiting for adoption.
  • Remind the readers of why the topic matters to them personally. For example, it doesn’t matter much if you believe in the mission of animal shelters, if you're not planning to get a dog; however, once you're looking for a dog, it is much more important. The conclusion of this essay might say, "Since you’re in the market for a dog, you have a major decision to make: where to get one." This will remind the reader that the argument is personally important!

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