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What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and/or mother's maiden name in order to commit, aid, or abet any crime. This information enables a thief to commit various types of fraud, including taking over financial accounts of victims, opening new accounts, making purchases, applying and getting loans or other benefits, renting apartments, establishing utilities, or committing crimes under another's identity.

Here are some of the basic forms of identity theft:
  • Theft of Financial Information: Someone steals existing account information, such as a credit card or bank account, or opening a new account under a false name.
  • Benefit Fraud: Obtaining money or benefits, such as Social Security, medical insurance, or welfare, using someone else's identity.
  • Criminal Identity Theft: Committing a crime using someone else's identity. Many victims are unaware of this until being pulled over for a traffic violation and discovering there is a warrant for their arrest.
  • Identity Cloning: Assuming someone else's identity. This may include using professional licenses or working under someone else's name. Many victims only discover this around tax time when the IRS reports that they have much more income than the individual earned.
  • Business Identity Theft: To defraud or hurt a business - usually financially.
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