What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses personally identifying information, such as your name, Social Security number, account number or credit card number, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend months and thousands of dollars trying to clear their names and credit records. Victims of identity theft may lose job opportunities, be refused loans and even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.
Identity theft can be the result of online activities, or take place offline, via telephone, fax, the U.S. Postal Service or face-to-face. It involves the fraudulent use of your information, enabling thieves to use your personally identifying information to:
-Open bank accounts in your name;
-Establish new credit card accounts;
-Obtain loans and cash;
-Make purchases on existing accounts as well as on new accounts opened in your name;
-Create new credit lines for loans, credit card accounts or phone service, and then not pay the bills;
-Drain your bank account by using counterfeit checks, stolen credit/debit cards or fraudulent electronic transfers;
-File bankruptcy in your name to avoid paying debts or being evicted; and
-Give your name to the police during an arrest.
Tactics range from simply snatching your wallet or purse to stealing documents from your trash (dumpster diving( or watching you enter numbers at an ATM or checkout counter (shoulder-surfing). Another strategy is to contact you by phone or via e-mail posing as a representative of a legitimate organization and getting you to give out personal information. Many schemes, such as fraudulent prize offers, can be perpetrated through several channels – via the U.S. Postal Service mail fraud, telephone telemarketing fraud, e-mail, fax or even in person.
A number of more sophisticated and often large-scale methods involve the use of software programs malware to capture personal information or to manipulate you into providing personal information phishing.