Identity theft refers to using someone else’s personal identifying information in order to commit fraud or receive some type of benefit, usually monetary in nature. Personal identifying information includes a person’s name, checking account number, routing number, credit card number or social security number, to name a few. Identity theft only occurs when someone does not give his or her consent to use such information. If a person gives his or her credit card to someone else and permission to use it, this likely will not result in identity theft because consent was rendered. However, there may be other charges or claims through this conduct. Identity theft requires the person perpetrating the crime to have the intent to commit fraud or some other crime.
Instances of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that more than 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. The victims may not even be aware that they have been victimized in this nature until months or years later, after which time their credit can be ruined and their reputation may be damaged.
Crimes Perpetrated through Identity Theft
Individuals commit a variety of crimes by stealing other people’s identifying information. These crimes may include leasing an apartment or house by using someone else’s credit information. An identity may be stolen in order to acquire a credit card in someone else’s name. Utilities may even be furnished by using someone else’s name and identifying information.
When Identity Theft Occurs
Identify theft starts when an identity thief acquires personal identifying information, like a social security number or credit card number. In some cases, the victim may be alive. In other cases, a deceased person’s identity is taken. Still other cases revolve around the theft of a minor’s information. Whether the victim is a minor, dead or alive does not typically change the criminal nature of the conduct.
Ways Identity Theft Are Committed
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal the identity of others. The most traditional method is to steal something that belongs to the victim. This may be committed when a thief goes into a home while the victim is at work. He or she may rifle through papers until he or she finds something with identifying information such as a driver’s license number or social security number. Someone’s purse or wallet may be stolen. Someone may look through thrown away trash to find private information about someone. He or she may steal checks out of a person’s mailbox. Skimming is the process of using a special device when scanning another person’s card. A person may provide his or her card to wait staff or a store clerk who then gets this information for criminal purposes.
Technological ways also help identity thieves. A thief may send spam to try to get the person to provide their personal information through a phishing scheme. An identity thief may also use false pretenses in order to get the person to reveal personal information, such as pretending to be part of the victim’s bank, credit card company or other account. After an identity thief gets a credit card or other benefit on behalf of the victim, he or she may then change the victim’s address so communications regarding the account go somewhere else.