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 ?
Matt Cullina, CEO of IDentity Theft 911, said, As identity theft grows in scale and complexity, victims are often alone in trying to repair their reputation and identity.
advent of "synthetic" identity theft (6) has exacerbated these
To handle the growing volume, the Sheriff's Department's Identity Theft Task Force has 39 personnel from 11 federal, state and local agencies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The credit industry and other data-handlers behave as they do bemuse in many cases, no one but the victim cares about identity theft.
A recent report by the FTC revealed that 29% of identity theft victims are 18 to 29, 25% are 30 to 39, and 20% are 40 to 49.
According to the ITRC study, the average amount of credit card charges related to identity theft in 2004 is $92,893.
Crimes such as these have resulted in Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, Inspector General John Higgins, and Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Theresa Shaw launching an identity theft prevention initiative to alert students who are particularly vulnerable to this type of financial crime.
Increased identity theft awareness is important not only for consumers but for law enforcement officials who are working daily to combat the crime and help put thieves behind bars.
Once theft of a child's identity is established, it can be more difficult to clear than it is for an adult, said Joanna Crane, manager of the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft program.
In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated 246,570 reports of identity theft nationwide.
4 million Americans say they have been victims of identity theft or fraud since 1990, with more than 13 million since January 2001 and rising.

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