What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone else uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security Number, credit card information, driver's licenses number or other identifying information without your permission.
Most of the time, this stolen information is uses to obtain credit, merchandise or services in the name of the victim. But, in addition to running up debt, an imposter might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
The only thing an identity thief needs is your Social Security Number, your birth date or, sometimes, identifying information as basic as your address, driver's license number and phone number.
Some of the places identity thieves get this information include:
- Personal information kept in your car (especially your glove box)
- Receipts tossed in the trash
- Overhearing conversations you have in public
- Information stolen from your mailbox
- Diverting your mail to another location by filling out a "change of address form"
- Looking over your shoulder when you use your credit cards or the ATM
Some thieves use technology to get your information:
- "Phising" or "pfarming" for information via e-mail
- "Pretexting" phone calls where the caller needs you to give information over the phone
- Computer hacking
But the most surprising might be when a dishonest employee snatches your personal information where you least expect it:
- Physician offices
- Attorney or accountant offices
- Health insurance carriers
- Stores where you shop or apply for credit cards
And once an identity thief has your information, they are then able to sell it to other crooks.
How Do You Know If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
What Do I Do?
What Do I Do About Criminal Records Made In My Name?
Additional ID Theft Links