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  • Head of the Cyber Crime Unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Andrea Martin Swaby, says legislation provides the best protection against identify theft, which she noted, has become a major international problem, impacting Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
  • She noted that the nature of the crime makes it very difficult to investigate and prosecute.
  • She further cited the Data Protection Bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly.

Head of the Cyber Crime Unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Andrea Martin Swaby, says legislation provides the best protection against identify theft,  which she noted, has become a major international problem, impacting Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

She made the comment while addressing the Caribbean Civil Registration and Identity Management Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St. James on July 8.

Martin Swaby explained that identity theft is when someone unlawfully obtains another person’s personal information and uses it to commit a criminal offence.

She noted that all international indicators have shown that identity theft continues to be a serious threat to the public given the highly impersonal nature of modern banking transactions and the vulnerability of electronic security systems.

“Even when we look at how items are purchased on the internet, the internet does not necessarily require any validation of a person’s identity. This, in itself, has created some major loopholes for fraud and where we find some very unsuspecting persons and financial institutions being hit hard by criminals,” she pointed out.

She noted that the nature of the crime makes it very difficult to investigate and prosecute.

“We often find that after the theft is discovered it now becomes a question of who did it, where is this person, what are the circumstances and most importantly, who are the parties that are involved?” she pointed out.

“That is why I am of the view that having an adequate legislative framework is perhaps the most important pre-emptive strike to protect a person’s identity and to protect persons from identity theft,” she argued.

She noted that in Jamaica there is legislation on the books that deals with the manipulation of identity information.

“For example in the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions Act (Lotto Scam Act) it has created the offence of possession of identity information with intent to commit an offence,” she informed.

“It is not limited to possessing the identity information for the purpose of engaging in the lottery scamming,” she pointed out.

She said the information includes not just the person’s name but also address, date of birth, electronic signature, email address or user name, credit card information, debit card number and an account number belonging to a financial institution, driver’s license and Tax Registration Number (TRN).

“And it goes even further. It goes to possessing a person’s retina image, their fingerprints, DNA profile, and biological or physiological information with intent to commit an offence. Rest assured that if you are caught with all these personal information about somebody else in your possession, then under the Lotto Scam Act you will indeed have a big problem on your hands,” she pointed out.

Ms. Martin Swaby also pointed out that the Cyber Crime Act of 2015, which was passed in December of last year created a new offence, making it a crime to use a computer to commit a fraud or forgery.

“It states that where a person manipulates a computer system by altering data, deleting or modification of data, with the intention that the data having been modified or so altered will be treated as being authentic then that person can be charged for computer-related forgery,” she pointed out.

She further cited the Data Protection Bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly.

The Bill, which has received comment from key stakeholders, seeks to protect the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data as well as govern the collection, regulation, processing, keeping, use and disclosure of certain information in physical or electronic form.

It will also determine the right to access information in the custody or control of an organisation, subject to certain exceptions, such as legal privileges; to take action to rectify incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information; or to block, erase, or destroy unlawful or unnecessary data.