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pre-modern

apparitions

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cards

resumes

pollution

tools

statistics

costs

responses

insurance

Aust law

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memoirs

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true lies

dead souls

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Economy


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Biometrics

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section heading icon     overview

This guide considers the nature of 'identity' and a range of identity offences that have variously been characterised as identity theft, identity fraud and identity pollution.

It covers -

  • identity - what is 'identity' and what are identity offences?
  • pre-modern - ID crime in pre-industrial societies
  • apparitions - ID offences from 1800 to the 1930s
  • conmen - contemporary conmen (and women)
  • compulsives - identity crime attributable to psychological needs rather than profit
  • honour - appropriation of military honours and status
  • survivor fraud
  • cards - cheque and credit card or debit card fraud
  • resumes - massaging CVs in a credentialist society
  • pollution - identity pollution by political rivals, ex-lovers and others concerned to damage a reputation rather than gain a financial benefit
  • tools - online ID theft and fraud, including 'joe jobs', appropriation of email addresses and phishing
  • statistics - Australian and overseas estimates of the incidence and severity of identity crimes
  • costs - an analysis of the costs of identity crime
  • responses - verification, education, document disposal, 'identity management', biometrics and other mechanisms for managing identity crime
  • Aust law - Australian federal and state/territory legislation regarding ID theft/fraud
  • overseas legislation - law in New Zealand, UK, Canada, US and other jurisdictions
  • memoirs - identity offences and memoirs
  • fiction - identity crime in literature and film
  • forensics - identifying and prosecuting identity crime
  • shadows - fake deaths and other perspectives
  • true lies - the business of selling fake identities
  • dead souls - from Gogol to Mosul
  • gender - shapeshifting from the Maid of Orleans to contemporary conundrums
  • race - ethnicity, identity and identity offences in totalitarian and liberal democratic regimes
  • age as identity , including 'photoshop kids' and other age-related offences
  • welfare fraud and other entitlement-related offence
  • missing people and ubiquitous identification
  • officials - impersonation of police and other representatives of the state
  • registration - questions about pervasive registration as the basis for civil identity in advanced and emerging economies
  • character -
  • landmarks - major ID thefts and frauds from the early Middle Ages to 2005

subsection heading icon    introduction

The supposed mutability of identity in the digital era - encapsulated in the famous New Yorker cartoon "on the internet no one knows that you are a dog" - and the pervasiveness of payment systems that do not require fact to face contact (or much authentication) has been reflected in concern about "identity theft" and "identity fraud" and identity management

The US Federal Trade Commission for example claimed that identity-related offences cost cost US consumers and businesses around US$53 billion in 2002. Estimates of the cost in Australia vary from around $2 billion to $6 billion in 2002-03. The Australian Institute of Criminology estimated the overall cost of fraud in Australia as more than $5 billion per year, almost a third of the $19 billion "total cost of crime". In June 2008 the Australian Bureau of Statistics identified the personal cost of identity fraud as around $976 million in the preceding year. It suggested that there were 499,500 victims of 'identity fraud' (of whom 383,300 were victims of credit or bank card fraud) and 124,000 victims of 'identity theft'.

In addition to readily identifiable financial costs, identity offences affects -

  • victims (whose identities have been stolen)
  • financial and other institutions
  • law enforcement agencies

It facilitates the commission of other types of crime such as people smuggling and of course has been associated with problems such as drug trafficking and terrorism.

subsection heading icon    impacts

What are the impacts of identity offences?

The shape of identity crime means that impacts encompass -

  • the deeply personal (parents of dead children discovering that someone has appropriated their child's identity)
  • erosion of someone's good name (use of an email address for spam) without direct economic impact
  • evasion of behavioural restrictions (using a doctored ID card to enter a nightclub while underage)
  • illegal receipt of welfare benefits
  • scams against consumers and businesses (eg a forged cheque or stolen credit card) that result in direct financial loss
  • erosion of someone's profile, with theft of identity resulting an individual losing a good credit rating or even employment opportunities
  • evasion of surveillance and law enforcement (eg fake identities for terrorists and other criminals)
  • exploitation of 'credentialism' for economic or other benefit.

Later pages of this profile explore estimates of economy-wide economic impacts.





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version of June 2008
© Bruce Arnold
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