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What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the misuse of another person's identifying information. In true identity theft, an identity thief uses another person's Social Security number and other identifying information to fraudulently open new accounts for financial gain. Victims may be unaware of the fraud for an extended period of time, which can allow the criminal to continue the ruse for months or even years. The criminal can use the victim's identity to work, receive medical care and commit other types of fraud. Account-takeover and credit-related fraud are common problems associated with identity theft.


Some examples of the many ways criminals use stolen identity information are to:     

  • Obtain credit fraudulently from banks and retailers

  • Steal money from the victim's existing accounts

  • Apply for loans

  • Establish accounts with utility companies

  • Rent an apartment

  • Obtain a job

  • Receive medical care

  • Achieve other financial gain using the victim's name

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