identity theft

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identity theft,

the use of one person's personal information by another to commit fraud or other crimes. The most common forms of identity theft occur when someone obtains another person's social security number, driver's license number, date of birth, and the like and uses it to open a fraudulent bank, credit card, cellular telephone, or other account, or to obtain false loans. Criminal identity theft, the most common nonfinancial type, occurs when someone gives another's personal information to a law enforcement officer when he or she is arrested. In addition to the financial losses resulting from identity theft, the person whose personal information has been used will have an erroneous credit or criminal history that is often expensive and time-consuming to correct. The occurrence of identity theft increased significantly beginning in the late 1990s due to the computerization of records and the ability to use another's personal information anonymously over the Internet.

identity theft

Stealing the identity of others by using their credit card, drivers license, social security or other personal identification numbers. With "true name" identity theft, the thief uses the information to open new accounts. With "account takeover" identity theft, the thief uses the information to access existing accounts.

Not only can the thieves run up bills for the victims, but they can commit crimes pretending to be the victim, who may have enormous difficulty proving otherwise. Although catalog shopping by telephone has been around for decades, it is possible that an order taker might find someone acting suspicious. However, the complete lack of human interaction on the Web has caused identity theft to increase. In 1998, the U.S. Congress made identity theft a federal offense.
References in periodicals archive ?
Identity thieves like to impersonate customer service representatives and ask to verify your birthday, Social Security number, or other personal data.
But permanency should serve the school system, its students and society - not identity thieves.
Identity thieves employ tactics such as looking over your shoulder when you're filling out an application form in a shop, watching as you enter your PIN.
Awareness: Become aware of how identity thieves gain your information and how they use it.
The task force's recommendations also include several legislative proposals designed to fill the gaps in current laws criminalizing the acts of many identity thieves, and ensure that victims can recover the value of their time lost attempting to repair damage inflicted by identity theft.
The Better Business Bureau says most identity thieves get their victims' personal information from dumpster diving, not by high-tech sabotage or theft.
Many Americans fall victim to identity thieves by having their SSNs stolen and misused.
No one is too young to be a target for identity thieves.
In addition to normal security precautions, such as using antivirus software and keeping system patches up to date, computer users must be on guard against phishing scams and other high-tech methods used by identity thieves, who seek to coax you into surrendering your personal information.
We can't wait for better technology before we change the laws, lest we play into the hands of the identity thieves, as we have in the past.
Financial institutions have substantial measures in place to protect information and guard against fraud, but consumers should also take steps to keep their information from falling into the hands of identity thieves.