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What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers and uses them for his or her own gain. Victims are left with picking up the pieces and restoring their good name.

There are five types of identity theft crimes:

  1. Account take over - Thief steals your credit card number or checking account information and uses it until either funds run out or the account is reported stolen.
  2. Financial ID Theft - This type of case typically focuses on your name and Social Security number (SSN). This person may apply for telephone service, credit cards or loans, buy merchandise, lease cars or apartments.
  3. Criminal ID Theft - The imposter in this crime provides the victim's information instead of his or her own when stopped by law enforcement. Eventually when the warrant for arrest is issued it is in the name of the person given the citation- yours.
  4. Identity Cloning - In this crime the imposter uses the victim's information to establish a new life. They work and live as you. Examples: Illegal aliens, criminals avoiding warrants, people hiding from abusive situations or becoming a "new person" to leave behind a poor work and financial history.
  5. Business or Commercial Identity Theft - Businesses are also victims of identity theft. Typically the perpetrator gets credit cards or checking accounts in the name of the business. The business finds out when unhappy suppliers send collection notices or their business rating score is affected.

Identity theft facts:

  • Identity theft is reaching epidemic proportions in the US , affecting every state
  • It is estimated over 9 million Americans were victimized in 2006
  • Every victim spends on average 175 hours and $808 out-of-pocket dollars clearing their name
  • Over half of victims know or have a connection to the thief
  • Majority of all identity theft crimes occur in the workplace
  • Penalties for identity theft crimes are lax or non-existent making this a high yield-low risk crime
  • Highest number of victims are between the ages of 18-29
  • No one is immune to id theft – celebrity victims include Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Will Smith
  • Id theft damage to your credit can last a lifetime affecting home purchases and job offers

Resources:
FTC - Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Resource Center

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