Identity theft or identity fraud is the taking of the victim's identity to obtain credit / credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from the victim's existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file for bankruptcy, or obtain a job using the victim's name without the victim even knowing about it for months or even years. Recently, criminals have been using the victim's identity to commit crimes ranging from traffic infractions to felonies.
All that is needed is your social security number, your birth date, and other identifying information such as your address, phone number, and whatever else they can find out about you. With this information, and a false driver's license with their own picture, they can begin the crime. They apply in person for instant credit, or through the mail posing as you. They often provide an address of their own, claiming to have moved. Negligent credit grantors in their rush to issue credit do not verify information or addresses.
Imposters gather information in lots of places - your doctor, accountant, lawyer, dentist, school, place of work, health insurance carrier, and many other places. If a criminally-minded person is working at the office (or just visiting) and decides to use this information to assume your identity, you would not know it. Also, if this information is not disposed of with a shredder, a dumpster-diver could pick up the information and begin the crime against you. If you do not shred your confidential information, utility bills, credit card slips, and other documents, it is easy to dumpster dive your garbage. Much of your information is readily available on the Internet, at courts, and accessible from public documents. Additionally, if someone obtains your credit report illegally, they have all the information necessary to become you.
The following are some simple tips that you can use to reduce your vulnerability to identity theft.
If you suspect or become a victim of identity theft, follow these steps: