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What Is Identity Theft And How Does It Harm You?

By Janet Lacey
Published: Monday, November 16th, 2009

What Is Identity Theft ? 

Identity theft is a crime where a criminal steals and uses personal information of other people to commit fraud and other crimes. Identity thieves acquire personal identifying information like social security numbers, employee codes, and credit card information etcetera to commit crimes in other people’s names. 

In the current scenario, identity theft has become a major crime that is increasing day by day. As of now, almost 9 million Americans become victims of identity theft every year. 

How Does Identity Theft Harm You? 

Identity thieves can seriously harm a person’s life by committing fraud and crimes in his name. Victims of identity theft often have to spend thousands of dollars and many years to clear their good names or to improve a credit report that has been marred by ID theft. Victims often lose job opportunities and are denied loans and finance because their identity has been misused by someone. In some cases, they may even be arrested for crimes the identity thief may have committed in their name. 

Some of the main ways by which identity thieves harm you are: 

Credit Card Fraud: Credit card fraud is the most common crime committed by identity thieves. After getting pertinent credit card information, the thief will call up your credit card company and get your mailing address changed. Then s/he will apply for a new credit card in your name and start using it without paying the bills or charges. Since the credit card is in your name, this will adversely influence your credit report and score. However, since the card company will be mailing the bills and information to another address, you will not even come to know about it till you check your credit report. 

Utilities Fraud: The second most common type of identity theft crime is utilities fraud. The thief will use your name to get a new phone, cable, wireless, heating or electricity connection. Since the service will be issued in your name, the charges will be added to your bills. 

Bank Fraud: The third most common form that identity theft takes is bank fraud. The thief may create counterfeit checkbooks and ATM or debit card in your name and use them to withdraw money from your account. They may also get a loan in your name, make electronic transfers or write bad checks. 

Other ways by which identity thieves may use your identity are:

  • Getting a job using your identity
  • Get medical services or rent a house using your name.
  • Buy securities under your name
  • File tax returns using your personal information
  • Use your social security number to get government benefits.
  • Use your name and address on forged documents and fake ID cards.
  • Use your personal details to prepare fake citizenship documents.

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