You work hard every day to make a living and support yourself and/or your family. If you've read the HowStuffWorks credit report and credit score articles, then you know how to keep your credit clean so you can enjoy the benefits of all of that hard work. What happens, though, when you find out that someone has used your name to get a credit card and has run up thousands of dollars in charges that you are now going to have to convince the credit card company that you are not responsible for? What if they opened bank accounts in your name, committed crimes using your name, or worse?!
Innocent people are being arrested because someone is committing crimes using their names. Can you prevent this from happening? Can you protect yourself from these white collar criminals? What is law enforcement doing about it?
In this article, we'll look into the dark world of identity theft to which we can all fall victim. We'll find out how others can get access to your personal identification information, how you can protect yourself, and what to do if you become a victim.
Identity theft can involve financial fraud or criminal activities.
Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft can enter into many areas of our lives. It involves any instance where a person uses someone else's identification documents or other identifiers in order to impersonate that person for whatever reason. According to a September 2003 survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, an estimated 10 million people in the United States found out they were victims of identity theft in the previous year. More appropriately titled identity fraud, your identity might be stolen in order for someone to commit:
- Financial fraud - This type of identity theft includes bank fraud, credit card fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, social program fraud, tax refund fraud, mail fraud, and several more. In fact, a total of 25 types of financial identity fraud are investigated by the United States Secret Service. While financial identity theft is the most prevalent (of the approximate 10,000 financial crime arrests that Secret Service agents made in 1997, 94 percent involved identity theft), it certainly isn't the only type. Other types of identity theft, however, usually involve a financial element as well -- typically to fund some sort of criminal enterprise.
Criminal activities - This type of identity fraud involves taking on someone else's identity in order to commit a crime, enter a country, get special permits, hide one's own identity, or commit acts of terrorism. These criminal activities can include:
Computer and cyber crimes
Next, we'll learn how someone can steal and access your identity.