Identity Theft

Written by Kimberly Clark
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Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime that occurs when someone steals another individual's personal information and uses it to fraudulently purchase things with credit. This could include totally new lines of credit that the victim has no idea about or the thief could simply start using already existing lines of credit. The victim's identity could also be used to rent an apartment, purchase a cell phone, open bank accounts, or take out an auto loan.

How The Information Is Obtained

The most common way thieves gain access to some else's identity, is by acquiring a person's information from discarded documents. Many thieves will rifle through trashcans in hopes of finding credit card and bank statements, tax records, or pre-approved credit card offers. All these documents contain personal information that could potentially be used to redirect the individual's mail or even open new accounts in the person's name.

Some thieves get their hands on your information from purportedly confidential sources such as employee records or from a worker in a store, where you may have used your credit card or bank account information. Information can also be extracted from transactions that occurred on unsecured Internet sites. Perhaps the most direct way a thief can obtain your information is through a purse or wallet snatching.

How It Is Detected

Since identity theft is most often committed as an indirect crime, it could be months or years before the victim realizes that any damage has been done. In fact it usually isn't noticed until the victim tries to open new lines of credit for themselves. It can take years to clear up fraudulent activities that appear on a person's credit report, so a consumer should regularly check their reports and verify the accuracy of the content.

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