People use the term identity theft loosely. True identity theft occurs when a thief uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number, home address, checking account number, etc., to commit fraud and open new accounts. Fraudulent charges on a credit or ATM card may mean that someone has stolen your credit card account number to make purchases that you did not approve, but it may not indicate that your identity was stolen.
Identity theft occurs when a thief steals your personal information to:
- Open new credit card accounts
- Take out loans for new cars or homes
- Access bank accounts and withdraw funds
- Rent homes
- Obtain medical treatment and charge it in your name
- Use your good name as an alias when committing a crime
These activities can result in a significant financial and emotional cost.
Thieves steal your personal information by:
- Stealing wallets, purses and mail that contain private information about you and your family.
- Completing a "change of address form" to divert mail from your home to another location.
- Rummaging through trash looking for personal information.
- Fraudulently obtaining personal information by posing as an employer, landlord, bank, credit card company or telemarketer.
- Intercepting cell phone calls when you are making a purchase.
Because thieves use a victim's personal information to create a fictitious person at a different address or commit fraud or crimes, victims are usually unaware of the problem for a period of time. That gives thieves the opportunity to commit multiple fraudulent acts or crimes without a victim's knowledge.
Fraudulent charges on a credit or ATM card may mean that someone has stolen your credit card account number to make purchases that you did not approve, but it doesn't necessarily mean that thieves have stolen your identity. Some credit institutions limit a consumer's responsibility for reimbursement when fraud occurs. ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage also provides reimbursement for fraud.
Identity theft occurs when a thief uses your personal information to open new credit accounts, purchase vehicles, or apply for loans, for example.
Yes. In October 1998, the United States Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (Identity Theft Act) to address identity fraud. Even with this law, identity theft continues to exist, and the number of Americans impacted escalates each year.
No. Most victims don't know how a thief obtained their personal information, making it hard to apprehend the thief. For a criminal, identity theft is a low-risk, high-reward endeavor. Due to a number of factors, identity theft is one of the least convicted crimes in America.