Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name, and perhaps to the other person’s disadvantage or loss.
Once a criminal accesses the information he needs he can for example do the following :
- Apply for a credit card in the victim’s name.
- Open a bank or building society account in the victim’s name.
- Apply for other financial services in the victim’s name.
- Run up debts like using the credit/ debit card details to make purchase or obtain a loan in the victim’s name.
- Apply for any benefits in the victim’s name like housing benefit, new tax credits, income support, job seeker’s allowance or child benefit.
- Apply for a driving license in the victim’s name.
- Register a vehicle in the victim’s name.
- Apply for a passport in victim’s name.
- Apply for a mobile phone contract in the victim’s name.
Identity theft may also be used as a means of blackmail, especially if medical privacy or political privacy has been breached and if revealing the activities undertaken by the thief under the name of the victim may have serious consequences like loss of job or marriage. Although identity theft appears to harbor all bad acts done while pretending to be someone else, assuming a false identity with the knowledge and approval of the person being impersonated for example cheating on an exam, is not considered being identity theft. Identity theft is such a broad concept that any discussion of it should quickly narrow down to the specific case like credit card fraud. Similarly any proposed remedy of identity theft is actually a remedy for a specific case of identity theft. Techniques for obtaining identification information range from stealing mail or rummaging through rubbish, stealing personal information in computer databases, to infiltration of organizations that store large amounts of personal information.
Innocent people are being arrested every year because some other person is committing crimes using their names. It has been estimated that more than 100,000 people in the UK are affected by identity theft every year. Identity theft is also the fastest growing crime in America and according to a Federal Trade Commission; 9.9 million victims were reported last year. According to a survey by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the average consumer victim spends 175 hours and $800 resolving identity theft problems, and it takes two to four years for victims to clear up all the resulting problems. So, the sooner you take action to clear your records, the better. It is therefore important to order your credit reports regularly, at least once a year.