Definition of Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission says that identity theft occurs when someone fraudlently uses your personal identification information without your permission to commit fraud and/or other crimes. This personal type of information includes vital specs like your name, social security number, bank account numbers, or credit card number.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that annually as many as nine million Americans experience identity theft. Like many people, I personally know those who have experienced some form of identity theft. I myself and a family member have experienced identity theft. I also have a close friend who learned 20 years ago that several other people were using his social security number.

The crime of identity theft takes many forms. Identity thieves may obtain a credit card, rent an apartment, or establish a telephone account in your name. Usually, the victim will not learn about the theft until they review their credit report or a credit card statement. Then, they notice charges they didn’t make. Sometimes, a victim may be surprised to be contacted by a debt collector about fraudlent bills.

Identity theft is a serious and potentially devastating crime. Some identity theft victims can quickly resolve their problems, as I did when I experienced credit card fraud. However, others, like my relative or close friend, spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their credit record and good name but have no recourse to collect on losses. Some consumers may even lose job opportunities due to their victimization by identity theft. Others may be denied important loans for mortgages, education, or cars because of false and negative information on their credit reports. In some rare cases, these victims may be arrested for crimes they did not commit.