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Identity Theft


Identity theft is a fraudulent activity where an individual obtains and uses another person’s personal information, typically for financial gain. This information may include social security numbers, credit card details, and banking information. The thief can then create fake accounts, make unauthorized purchases, or conduct other illegal transactions in the victim’s name, often leading to financial loss or damaged credit for the victim.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword ‘Identity Theft’ would be: aɪˈdɛn.tɪ.ti θɛft

Key Takeaways

  1. Identity theft is a serious crime that involves stealing someone’s personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, and financial details, to commit fraud, open new accounts, or make unauthorized transactions.
  2. Prevention is key when it comes to identity theft. It is important to safeguard your personal information, monitor your credit reports regularly, use strong and unique passwords, and be cautious when sharing your information online or over the phone.
  3. If you become a victim of identity theft, it is essential to take immediate action by contacting the affected financial institutions, placing a fraud alert on your credit reports, filing a police report, and considering a credit freeze to minimize further damage to your finances and credit reputation.


Identity Theft is an important term in business and finance as it refers to the fraudulent acquisition and use of an individual’s personal and financial information, often for criminal activities such as unauthorized financial transactions or other exploitative purposes. This type of crime not only disrupts a victim’s financial stability and creditworthiness, but can also wreak havoc on a company’s reputation and security. Businesses need to be vigilant against identity theft by proactively implementing strong security measures, maintaining confidentiality of data, and fostering a culture of awareness among staff and customers. Effective prevention and management of identity theft are crucial for maintaining trust and credibility, while reducing financial losses and legal consequences in the business world.


Identity theft, despite being a criminal activity, serves a deceptive purpose as it enables the perpetrator to engage in various malicious financial or business undertakings while using another person’s identity. By assuming another’s identity, the thief can successfully carry out fraudulent activities that span from opening unauthorized accounts to causing significant monetary loss for the victim. Consequently, identity theft aims to undermine the financial security and credibility of an individual or organization, usually for the thief’s personal gain or to fund other illicit operations.

One of the primary uses of identity theft is financial fraud, which could range from unauthorized withdrawals to accessing the victim’s credit line for making purchases without their knowledge. In many cases, identity thieves strive to take over the victim’s financial identity in order to make it challenging for victims to detect these illicit activities. Moreover, identity theft is also employed to conduct non-financial fraud, such as obtaining illegal employment, utilizing the victim’s credentials for rental agreements, or registering for utilities using false information. The detrimental consequences of identity theft demand greater awareness and the adoption of stringent measures to mitigate the risk, safeguarding both individuals and businesses from the potential havoc it can wreak.


1. Phishing emails: In 2014, Anthem Inc., one of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, suffered an identity theft breach when attackers gained unauthorized access to their databases. The thieves were able to access personal information of nearly 80 million customers and employees, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive details. The breach was initiated by a phishing email campaign targeted at employees, tricking them into revealing their login credentials.

2. Unauthorized credit card applications: In 2017, Richard L. of Austin, Texas discovered that his identity had been stolen when he received a notification for a new credit card account which he had not applied for. The thief had obtained his personal information – including his name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number – and used it to fraudulently apply for a credit card in his name. The thief then racked up over $5,000 in debt before Richard discovered the issue and reported it as identity theft to the credit card company.

3. Tax return fraud: In 2015, Julie R. of Tampa, Florida became a victim of tax return identity theft when someone filed a fraudulent tax return using her personal information. The thief claimed a large refund, which was paid out to them using Julie’s identity. When Julie filed her actual tax return, it was rejected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because they believed she had already filed. Julie had to provide proof of identity and work with the IRS to clear her name and resolve the fraud before she could get a legitimate tax refund.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account information, to commit fraud or other illegal activities.

How does identity theft occur?

Identity theft can occur in various ways, including stealing physical items like wallets, mail, or financial documents, phishing scams, hacking into online accounts, using malware or spyware, skimming credit card data, or dumpster diving to obtain discarded personal information.

What are some common types of identity theft?

Common types of identity theft include financial identity theft, medical identity theft, tax-related identity theft, criminal identity theft, child identity theft, and senior identity theft.

What are the consequences of identity theft?

Victims of identity theft can face various consequences, such as unauthorized credit card charges, loan applications, tax returns filed in their name, false medical claims, damaged credit scores, and in some cases, even criminal charges for crimes committed using their stolen identity.

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

To protect yourself from identity theft, you can take steps such as safeguarding your personal information, using strong passwords, shredding sensitive documents, monitoring your accounts and credit reports, and remaining vigilant about sharing your information online or via phone.

How do I know if I am a victim of identity theft?

Signs of identity theft may include unknown charges on your bank or credit card statements, calls from debt collectors, denial of credit for no apparent reason, unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report, or receiving bills or statements for accounts you didn’t open.

What should I do if I suspect identity theft or become a victim?

If you suspect identity theft or become a victim, immediately report it to the appropriate financial institutions or credit card companies, place a fraud alert on your credit reports, monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity, and consider filing a police report.

How long can the effects of identity theft last?

The effects of identity theft can last for several months or even years, depending on the severity of the case and how quickly the victim takes action to resolve the issue. It can take time to remove fraudulent accounts or charges, repair damaged credit, and clear one’s name.

Are there any resources available to help identity theft victims?

Yes, there are several resources available to help identity theft victims, including the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website (, the Identity Theft Resource Center (, and consumer credit counseling agencies, among others. These resources can provide guidance and assistance in recovering from identity theft.

Related Finance Terms

    • Identity Fraud
    • Credit Card Skimming
    • Phishing
    • Social Engineering
    • Data Breach

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