Explaining Fear of Identity Theft Victimization Using a Routine Activity Approach

DOI10.1177/10439862211001627
Published date01 August 2021
Date01 August 2021
https://doi.org/10.1177/10439862211001627
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2021, Vol. 37(3) 406 –426
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/10439862211001627
journals.sagepub.com/home/ccj
Article
Explaining Fear of Identity
Theft Victimization Using a
Routine Activity Approach
Jaeyong Choi1, Nathan E. Kruis2,
and Kyung-Seok Choo3
Abstract
The current study aims to estimate and explain citizens’ fear of identity theft
victimization by examining data collected from a nationally representative sample
of South Korean residents. Specifically, we compared participants’ levels of fear of
identity theft victimization with fear of other types of crime using paired-samples
t-tests. We found that fear of identity theft victimization is significantly higher than
fear of other types of crime. Drawing on routine activity theory, we explored the
relationship between victimization (i.e., identity theft), online proximity to motivated
offenders (i.e., phishing), online exposure to motivated offenders (e.g., online banking
and shopping), target suitability (e.g., downloading pirated media), and fear of identity
theft victimization. Results from ordinal logistic regression models suggest that
victimization and online exposure to motivated offenders were significantly related
to fear of identity theft victimization.
Keywords
fear of identity theft, phishing, cybercrime, routine activities theory
Introduction
Identity theft is one of the most ubiquitous financial crimes, affecting approximately
one in 25 adults living in the Western world every year (Roberts et al., 2013). This
number seems to be on the rise (Marchini & Pascual, 2019; Piquero et al., 2011).
1Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX, USA
2Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, PA, USA
3Utica College, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jaeyong Choi, Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice, Angelo State University,
2601 W. Avenue N, San Angelo, TX 76909, USA.
Email: jaeyong.choi@angelo.edu
1001627CCJXXX10.1177/10439862211001627Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeChoi et al.
research-article2021
Choi et al. 407
Although there exists a growing literature base documenting trends, patterns, and new
techniques of identity theft, as well as general characteristics of victims and risk fac-
tors for identity theft, little is known about fear of identity theft victimization and its
predictors. Researchers have suggested that this topic as a whole (e.g., identity theft)
is an understudied area in criminology (Irvin-Erickson & Ricks, 2019; Piquero et al.,
2011). Furthermore, considering that fear of crime can have detrimental effects on a
person’s mental and physical health (Pearson & Breetzke, 2014), fear of cybercrime—
of which, identity theft is a subcategory—is also one topic that has been understudied
within the fear of crime literature (cf. Henson et al., 2013; Higgins et al., 2008; Roberts
et al., 2013; Yu, 2014).
As public perceptions of identity theft can influence policy efforts designed to pre-
vent, detect, and deter identity-related offenses (Piquero et al., 2011), the study of citi-
zens’ fear of identity theft could help develop strategies to combat these problems. The
current study seeks to fill the gaps in the literature on fear of cybercrime by measuring
fear of identity theft victimization using a nationally representative sample of South
Korean residents. Furthermore, this study contributes to the existing literature by test-
ing the utility of routine activity theory for explaining the fear of becoming a (cyber)
victim of identity theft. In doing so, the current study provides implications that can be
useful for understanding public fear of identity theft victimization.
To provide readers with a more thorough understanding of the current knowledge
base regarding identity theft victimization, we present an overview of the prior litera-
ture on the topic. We then leverage information from the literature on fear of crime to
consider the utility of routine activity theory for explaining fear of identity theft vic-
timization. After describing the current study, we present the results from a multivari-
ate analysis predicting fear of identity theft victimization. Concluding remarks discuss
the findings, limitations of this article, and directions for future studies.
Literature Review
Identity Theft
There has been some debate surrounding the true definition of identity theft. Broadly,
identity theft, in general, refers to the unlawful acquisition and use of another indi-
vidual’s personal identification information (Allison et al., 2005; Gordon et al.,
2003; Perl, 2003; Pontell, 2009; White & Fisher, 2008). This information can
include, but is not limited to, a person’s name, residential address, birth date, social
security number, tax information, passport number, driver license number, or bio-
medical information (Allison et al., 2005). There are three main types of identity
theft: (a) tax-related identity theft, (b) medical identity theft, and (c) social identity
theft (United States Government, 2020). Tax-related identity theft refers to a process
whereby a perpetrator uses another person’s personal information to file and claim a
fraudulent tax refund. Medical identity theft occurs whenever someone steals per-
sonally identifying information of another person and uses this information to attain
medication, medical care, or to submit fraudulent claims to health insurers. Social

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT