Consumer Protection

What is identity theft?


Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes ― most commonly to obtain access to credit in your name. For example, an identity thief may steal your Social Security number and open, or attempt to open, a credit account under your name.

Personal information includes:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Bank account number
  • Credit card number
  • Personal identification numbers
  • Mother’s maiden name, or other information used as a security screen
  • Passwords
  • Any other piece of key information that can be used to gain access to a person’s financial resources or to assume a person’s identity

How does identity theft occur?

  • Mail ― Looking for red flag up on mailboxes and bill payments
  • Trash ― Digging for discarded receipts, credit card and bank account statements, credit card applications, etc.
  • Wallet or purse ― One of the most common ways of obtaining personal information
  • Home ― Stealing important documents, such as credit card and bank account statements, checkbooks, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses and birth certificates
  • Relatives and friends ― A Better Business Bureau survey found you are as likely to have your identity stolen by a relative, friend or acquaintance as online.
  • Computers ― Illegally gaining access to computers to steal your personal information, such as following financial transactions
  • Businesses ― Bribing employees who have access to personal information at businesses
    • Security or data breaches can occur by illegally accessing information on computers, theft from the business or from someone posing as a legitimate client or accidentally.
  • Email phishing: Posing as a legitimate company, emails request verification of personal information, which legitimate businesses will never do
  • Phone pretexting Calling and posing as a legitimate company, requesting you verify personal information, or they may contact an information source, posing as you, seeking personal information
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