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Identity theft literally means taking the things that make up who someone else is, such as their I.D.  Often this is done for criminal purposes.  It may involve taking another person's image, words, full address, driver's license, PIN, credit card, passport number or other personally important details.

An increasing number of criminals are using spyware or viruses to help them collect the personal information of others.

People who commit identity theft may steal an identity to masquerade as another person and:

  • open new bank accounts
  • pretend to be someone else online
  • apply for loans, credit cards or goods and services
  • hide their past
  • buy things

If you are the victim of identity theft, let your local police know.  Also your financial institutions and national credit bureau.

How to prevent identity theft?

  1. By checking hard-copy and internet statements, it is possible to see if someone has been using your financial identity.  
  2. Remove all I.D. from your wallet that is not necessary.  
  3. Be cautious of unfamiliar e-mails, mail or phone calls that try to obtain personal information.
  4. Shred documents before throwing them away.  
  5. Keep your eye on your financial cards when cashiers are doing transactions.
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Identity theft is a crime in which a person assumes another person’s identity (pretends to be another person), usually for economic gain.  Identity theft generally occurs when a criminal obtains another person’s personal data and uses it to impersonate that person in online transactions.  Identity theft hurts the person whose identity was stolen mainly because it can ruin their credit rating and can otherwise make them look like a bad risk to creditors, employers, and others.

Identity theft has become much simpler since the rise of the internet.  Thieves can obtain personal information much more easily through various online scams or through hacking.  They can use stolen information to obtain credit cards, to apply for loans, and to otherwise get access to money or credit under the false name.  They get the benefit of using the credit or getting the loans and do not have to pay their bills because they are not incurred under their real names.

Identity theft, then, involves obtaining personal data from other people and using the data to pretend to be those other people.  The point of the pretense is to gain access to money without having to pay it back.

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