What is identity theft? These are the basics you need to know about this increasingly widespread crime.
As the world spends more and more of its time online each day, an increasing number of people fall victim to identity theft – a serious and sometimes life-altering crime that can happen to anyone at any time. According to Credit.com, most people will face identity theft at one point in their lives.
But what exactly is identity theft?
The United States Department of Justice says, “The short answer is that identity theft is a crime. 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 personal information is vulnerable to identity theft?
All of your personal data is vulnerable when it comes to identity theft. Your social security number, bank account number, credit card numbers, driver’s licenses, passports and any other unique identifying numbers can be used to steal your identity.
How does it happen?
Identity theft can be very high tech or very low tech. Some cyber criminals use high tech tricks to steal personal information online, but other identity thieves use simpler methods. For instance, Credit.com says a majority of identity theft crimes stem from check forgery, credit card misuse and information stolen from the trash or what’s known as “dumpster diving.” Identity thieves also steal purses or wallets to obtain personal information like driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, etc.
Identity theft can happen in a lot of ways, and thieves can do different things with your personal information once they obtain it. For instance, the Social Security Administration says someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your identity can cause a lot of problems:
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. A dishonest person who has your Social Security number can use it to get other personal information about you. Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You may not find out that someone is using your number until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get call from unknown creditors demanding payment for items your never bought.”
Identity theft is something that every American should be aware of. Stay tuned for more posts about identity theft, including what’s happening now in the news, and a breakdown of new trends like phishing, pharming, skimming, and more.