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What is Identity Theft ?

By Martin Harris in Consumer Advocacy
April 11th, 2011

Identity Theft is the fastest growing Internet related consumer crime with over 9 million Americans falling victim every year.

Identity TheftIdentity Theft is a general term for a group of crimes which involves the illegal use of another person’s identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person’s name. The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud where a victim’s credit card number is stolen and used by a criminal to make fraudulent purchases or fraudulently access a victim’s bank account to withdraw funds. Victims of identity theft often suffer numerous adverse consequences and in some cases can actually be held accountable for the perpetrator’s actions. Fortunately, most major credit card companies and banking institutions are quick to assist victims in straightening out the mess made by criminals.

Identity Theft is not a new crime, it has been around for ages but the methods used by perpetrators in the information age are what make it even more imperative for consumers to protect their information. In the past, criminals were limited to using methods such as credit card skimmers or rummaging through trash to obtain personal information. These days, with the widespread popularity of the Internet, criminals worldwide have the opportunity to access information on remote computers or systems without needing to be in the same physical proximity of the victim.

According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center, Identity Theft can sub-divided into four particular categories:

1. Financial Identity Theft - Using another’s name and other identifying information to obtain goods and/or services.
2. Criminal Identity Theft - Posing as another when apprehended for a crime.
3. Identity Cloning - Using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life.
4. Business / Commercial Identity Theft - Using another’s business name to obtain credit.

Related crimes include illegal immigration, terrorism and espionage. Identity theft may also be a means of blackmail. There are also cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, such as obtaining medical treatment.

According to the FTC’s Identity Theft Site, Identity Theft is the fastest growing consumer crime with over 9 million Americans falling victim to criminals every year. Conusmers are recommended to monitor their credit reports and credit rating for early detection and prevention of Identity Theft related credit card fraud.

If you like to learn more about Identity theft, please visit the FTC Identity Theft Site.


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