The terms “identity theft” and “identity fraud” are often used interchangeable and refer to crimes in which an individual obtains and uses the personal information of another individual without authorization to gain some type of benefit. This benefit is usually financial gain. Identity thieves target personal information includes Social Security number, credit card or bank account number, driver’s license information, date of birth.
Any personal identifying information can be stolen and used to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges to financial accounts and even to take over completely another person’s identity and conduct business under that person’s name by getting a job, buying a home, get medical care, or apply for a passport. The stolen identity may even be used to commit other crimes. Identity theft can be devastating to victims, exposing them to serious financial and emotional difficulties.
There are three basic categories of identity crime: financial, criminal, and non-financial (other).
Financial identity crimes are those that involve financial relationships and lines of established credit. There is a risk of financial identity fraud within any activity or manipulation of new of existing financial accounts. Because of the many opportunities for potential theft in financial accounts, monitoring accounts through credit reports from major credit bureaus is currently the most effective way of discovering and stopping financial identity crimes.
Criminal identity crimes typically occur when an identity thief or imposter uses the personal identity information of another person to commit fraudulent acts in that person’s name. Identity thieves may commit felonies or misdemeanor crimes, and if caught, provide law enforcement with false identification information. In these cases, the victim may suffer serious damage to reputation and finances. A criminal record may exist under his/her name for crimes committed by the imposter. It may take years for a victim to even realize that his/her record has been damaged, and it may take years more to clear that record of the effects of criminal identity theft.
Non-financial types of identity crime involve the identity criminal getting job under a stolen name, defrauding the Social Security Department or the Internal Revenue Service, or obtaining other benefits (disability, medical care, worker’s compensation, etc.).