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What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft, also known as ID theft is a crime in which a criminal obtains key pieces of personal information, such as Social Security or driver's license numbers, in order to pose as someone else. The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services using the victims’ name. Identity theft can also provide a thief with false credentials for immigration or other applications. One of the biggest problems with identity theft is that very often the crimes committed by the identity theft expert are often attributed to the victim.

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There are two main types of identity theft – account takeover and true name theft. Account takeover identity theft refers to the type of situation where an imposter uses the stolen personal information to gain access to the person’s existing accounts. Often the identity thief will use the stolen identity to acquire even more credit products by changing your address so that you never see the credit card bills that the thief runs up.

True name identity theft means that the thief uses personal information to open new accounts. The thief might open a new credit card account, establish cellular phone service, or open a new checking account in order to obtain blank checks. The Internet has made it easier for an identity thief to use the information they've stolen because transactions can be made without any real verification of someone’s identity. All a thief really needs today is a series of correct numbers to complete the crime.  Companies like LifeLock can monitor if a thief has gotten access to and used any of your personal information."

Some types of identity thieves hack into databases to steal personal information. However this type of thievery is much rarer than the use of old fashioned methods such as scouring the garbage for old receipts or looking over someone’s shoulder while they are doing a financial transaction. You should also be wary of such criminals at the Department of Motor Vehicles or anywhere else where filling out a long application could provide a thief with enough information to inspire an identity theft.

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More About Identity Theft

History of Identity Theft

Identity Theft Scams

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Recovering from Identity Theft

How Credit Card Fraud Affects your Credit Score

Resources for Identity Theft Victims