Identity theft can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, economic status or race.  Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, with increased involvement by organized crime.

 Two Primary Classes of economic crime related to identity theft:

  1. Accounts Takeover Identity Theft – Thief uses personal information to gain access to a person’s existing accounts – thief acquires a person’s existing credit account information and uses the existing account to purchase products and services.

  2. True Name Identity Theft – Thief uses personal information to open new accounts – thief uses another person’s SSN and other ID information to fraudulently open new accounts to obtain financial gain.

Stealing wallets/purses was once the most common way of obtaining SSNs and Driver’s Licenses, credit card numbers and other identifying information.  Today thieves attach every area of an individuals’ life wherever personal information is sent or stored.  Methods include the following:

  1. Dumpster Diving – Trash bins for bank and credit card statements

  2. Stealing Mail – Obtain pre-approved credit offers and newly issued credit cards

  3. Fraudulently accessing credit files by posing as loan officer, employer, landlord

  4. Obtaining names, addresses, birth dates and SSNs from personnel or customer files in the workplace

  5. Shoulder Surfing at ATM machines to capture PIN numbers

  6. Collecting all personal data from online sources – public records and fee-based information

Identity Theft is generally perpetrated to facilitate other crimes such as credit card fraud, check fraud and mortgage fraud.  With a person’s identifying information, an identity thief can do the following:

  1. Open new accounts in the name of a victim

  2. Borrow funds in the victim’s name

  3. Take over and withdraw funds from existing accounts of the victim, such as their checking account or their home equity line of credit

Classifications of Identity Theft:

  1. Criminal Identity Theft – occurs when an imposter gives another person’s name and personal information to a law enforcement officer during an investigation or upon arrest.

  2. Financial Identity Theft – Account-Takeover Fraud or True-Name Fraud involves thieves assuming one’s identity by applying for credit, running up huge bills and stiffing creditors.

    • Phishing – Thieves fishing for personal financial information

    • Business/Commercial Identity Theft – thieves increasingly steal clients’ personal information from within organizations

  1. Identity Cloning – Identity clones comprise the victim’s life by actually living and working as the victim.

Federal Laws:

  1. Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 – This Act makes identity theft a federal crime.

  2. Identify Theft Penalty Enhancement Act – Allows harsher sentencing when identity theft occurs in connection with other serious crimes, such as terrorism.

Consumer Protection Laws:

  1. Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) – Requires companies that use consumer reports to discard personal information properly.

  2. Fair Credit Reporting Act – Establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.

  3. Fair Credit Billing Act – Establishes procedures for resolving billing errors on one’s credit card accounts. Limits consumer’s liability for fraudulent credit card charges.

  4. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – Prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or deceptive practices to collect overdue bills that an individual’s creditor has forwarded for collection.

  5. Electronic Fund Transfer Act – Provides consumer protection for all transactions using a debit card or electronic means to debit or credit an account. Limits a consumer’s liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.

  6. Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 – Limits on disclosures of personal information in records maintained by department of motor vehicles.

  7. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 – Limits on disclosure of educational records maintained by agencies and institutions that receive federal funding.

So remember that identity thieves are using an increasing number of methods to steal your identity.  So always try to protect yourself from these vigilant criminals.

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