What Are Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?
Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
What are the Most Common Ways That Identity Theft
or Fraud can happen to you?
- In public places, for example, criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing"– watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number – or listen in on your conversation if you give your credit-card number over the telephone.
- If you receive applications for "pre-approved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location.
- Many people respond to "spam"– unsolicited E-mail – that promises them some benefit but requests identifying data, without realizing that in many cases, the requester has no intention of keeping his promise. In some cases, criminals reportedly have used computer technology to steal large amounts of personal data.
With enough identifying information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual's identity to conduct a wide range of crimes. For example:
- False applications for loans and credit cards,
- Fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts,
- Fraudulent use of telephone calling cards or online accounts, or
- Obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminal might be denied if he were to use his real name
~The Office of the Attorney General, United States Department of Justice~