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I would compare both types of identity theft to attending church; many attend but few actually understand. Most people know what identity theft is, but very few realize how common and easy it is to steal someone’s identity. In the literal sense, 1.4 million identities were stolen in 2018. This resulted in a loss of 1.48 billion dollars from identity theft in 2018 alone. Although the up to 27 years in prison is the sentence for an identity thief, but this is not stopping them at all. No type of monetary identity theft could ever compare to someone stripping another of everything that defines them, tossing them into a category, leaving behind nothing but a hollow shell of a human. This metaphorical type of identity theft is not measurable, but it happens every single day.
Literal identity theft has increased exponentially in the last decade due to advancing technologies and everything becoming electronic. Everything is online nowadays, so all it takes is one hack of a computer and a thief will have all the information he needs to sign into a bank account anywhere they want or order anything online. It has become simple to steal credit card information, banking passwords, or even medical information to access prescription drugs. In some of the worst cases, friends and family are stealing valuable information from each other for a few thousand dollars, or whatever they can leech off their kin. Empish Thomas fell victim to identity theft twice. Her first experience was in 1996, when a newly hired co-worker stole a few of the employee’s wallets, including Thomas. The thief went on to buy groceries, designer clothes, perfume, and even tried to rent an apartment her name using her credit card and social security numbers. By this time, Thomas had frozen all her accounts and called the police about the apartment. Luckily for her, a few weeks later she got a call that the thief was apprehended and she was able to get her money back. After her first experience, she considered herself educated on identity theft and was taking all precautions to prevent it from happening again. The second time Empish Thomas’s identity was stolen, was a completely different story. Mrs. Thomas has struggled with her vision fading away, in 1996 she could still read and see colors. By 2006, when this crime took place, she was completely blind. Empish Thomas went out for dinner with a close girlfriend and her son, but before stopped by an ATM to withdraw money for the meal. She had trouble using the machine because there was no braille on the touchscreen, so she told her friend her PIN and got the money. After arriving to the restaurant, she went to use the restroom and left her wallet at the table. A few days after dinner Thomas noticed a $400 withdrawal from her bank account and immediately contacted the bank to claim fraud. She explained she made no transactions at that ATM but, asked her friend to help her at a different ATM, because it was not accessible for her. The bank representative informed her that it is not fraud because she released her PIN, even though she was blind and literally could not access the machine without help. Thomas went on to call her girlfriend and they both figured out very quickly who the culprit was. She then called the police fraud department, and a few other branches of the bank, but they all gave her the same answer. A few months later, the court ruled in Empish Thomas’s favor, but her friend’s son was still under 18, so he could not go to jail. Despite the judge’s ruling, she was still not getting anything from the fraud department because she gave her PIN out. It took a letter including the police report, court rulings, and a letter to the bank’s CEO, to get her account off hold. During this long period, she could not open any other bank accounts. Luckily Thomas had an account with a credit union, otherwise, she wouldn’t have access to any funds. Empish Thomas has had two rough times dealing with identity theft, causing her enormous amounts of stress and worry. This is a minor inconvenience compared to how metaphorical identity theft can shred apart the fundamental characteristics and beliefs that someone has spent their whole life with, transforming them into just another category.
Metaphorical identity theft targets a person’s mind, rather than their bank account. It could be as simple as someone calling another a name, that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Avoiding metaphorical identity theft is very tough. Some people it seems, cannot ever get away from being targeted for metaphorical identity theft, such as Peyton James. Peyton James was born in the year 2001, weighing 2.52 pounds at birth. He was kept in the hospital for a little over a month, only inhaling pure oxygen and was fed through a tube. These factors would cause his teeth to be stained a yellowish tint, but Peyton and his family would not find out until later in life. Peyton started hearing remarks about his teeth in the second grade. None of the people knew who he was, what he liked to do, how he spent his time and chose to only label him by his yellow teeth and smaller complexion. Peyton often wondered and asked his mom “Why are people so mean?”, and she told him to initiate the kindness. Peyton tried to take his own life in November 2013. Finally, he got some help in therapy and started to see past the categories he was being put in, and saw his own identity, for the first time since second grade. Peyton’s mother got a new teaching job in 2014, so he had to transfer schools. His mother helped him see it was a “new beginning”. This was a sense of false hope because shortly into the 2014 school year, the thieves were back at it with new verbal weapons. Peyton went to the principal for help with one incident in the fall of 2014, and he was simply told to avoid that boy. A person can get 25 years in prison for stealing a credit card, but stealing Peyton’s identity until he literally has nothing left and wants to kill himself is left unpunished? Peyton explained this incident to his mother after school one day, and after the conversation hung himself from his ceiling fan. These thieves managed to rip every good thought Peyton had about himself for 13 years, and then went on and replaced them with what they labeled him, throughout a short period of 2 months. After his death, one of Peyton’s friends was crying in school, and the same person who had been working to steal Peyton’s identity came up to her and said “I’m not surprised. That boy was a freak.”. Even after they accomplished their goal, the thieves had to steal Peyton’s identity and try to tarnish his name one last time. Not only did these people steal Peyton’s identity from him, they also took his life.
Metaphorical and literal identity theft are two very different things, but they are both dangerous in their own ways. Whereas literal identity thieves might be looking to snatch a social security number, credit card, or banking information; metaphorical identity thieves will do whatever they can to rip your mental well-being apart and use it for personal gain. Literal identity thieves lack or desire more money than they have, while metaphorical thieves lack mental wellness and self-confidence. The lack of a good mental state is what propels these thieves, and they believe by taking another person’s good self-esteem, then they will somehow feel better. The key to prevention of this is to not let them take it. The person that is getting attacked must be mentally tough enough to know their value and identity, then no one will ever be able to steal it.
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