Identity Theft Fraud

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. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, affecting approximately 500,000 new victims each year.

Two Types of Identity Theft

  • "Account takeover" occurs when a thief acquires your existing credit account information and purchases products and services using either the actual credit card or simply the account number and expiration date.
  • "Application fraud" is what some experts call "true name fraud." The thief uses your social security number and other identifying information to open new accounts in your name. Victims are not likely to learn of application fraud for some time, because the monthly account statements are mailed to an address used by the imposter. In contrast, victims learn of account takeover when they receive their monthly account statements. This guide discusses strategies for reducing the risk of both types of fraud.
  1. How Identity Theft or Fraud is Committed
  2. Prevention of Identity Theft or Fraud
  3. What to Do if You Are the Victim of Identity Theft or Fraud
  • In public places, criminals may engage in "shoulder surfing" - watching you from a nearby location as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number.
  • Some criminals engage in "dumpster diving" - going through your garbage cans or a commercial dumpster or trash bin - to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, or even your telephone number.
  • Criminals may simply steal your wallet or purse.
  • If you have received applications for "pre-approved" credit cards in the mail, but discard them without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.
  • Criminals may open up a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth, and Social Security number. When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • They may establish cellular phone service in your name.
  • They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • Criminals may pilfer bank statements, credit card statements, pre-approved credit card applications, etc., from your mailbox.