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
- 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