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Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft?

Simply put, someone is a victim of identity theft when their vital identifying information—social security number, birth date, etc.—are wrongfully used by another person, usually to commit fraud.  Unfortunately, deceased identities are not immune to identity theft.  In 2005, nearly 500,000 deceased identities were stolen according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

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How Does it Occur?

Identity theft can easily occur when a thief has several vital pieces of information about a person's identity. Unfortunately, this information can often be obtained with a small amount of detective work and deception; thieves can also illegally purchase this information on the Internet.

Three categories of identity theft:

  • Account Theft:  This occurs when existing accounts are used to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals.  This can damage the credit rating of the account holder and is probably the most common type of identity theft.  Most often occurs via Internet transactions.

  • Application Fraud: This occurs when the thief uses stolen personal information to open new accounts—credit cards, mortgages, loans, cell phones, utilities, etc. The thief frequently uses such information in combination with false addresses and phone numbers to obtain the accounts.

  • Criminal Identity Theft: This occurs when the thief actually assumes someone else’s identity and presents themselves with identification as that person specifically to law enforcement.

Identity theft can also be classified by the type of information stolen or used. The four categories of information identity thieves commonly use include:

  • Credit Card Identity Theft: The most common type in which the thief uses the victim’s credit fraudulently.

  • Social Security Identity Theft: A thief uses a social security number to fraudulently obtain employment. This can be particularly problematic when the thief’s employer reports their earnings in the victim’s name.

  • Medical Identity Theft: This occurs when someone gets health coverage by fraudulently using another’s name or information, or when a thief uses a victim’s current medical insurance to get prescriptions or treatment.

  • Drivers License Identity Theft: The thief fraudulently obtains a drivers license in the victim’s name and commits traffic crimes and violations in that name.

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