What REALLY is identity theft?
Lets start off with what it is NOT
Identity Theft is more than someone stealing your credit card and charging on it. There is a lot of misconception about this.
What it is according to the Federal Trade Commission:
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
Below are some links to the Federal Trade Commission regarding Identity Theft:
National & State Trends published January 2003. You may want to pay special attention to pages 2-5, 8, 11, 26, and 38. You need to note that the numbers listed in this report only include people who have reported things to the FTC. How many people do you think did not even report to the FTC?
The Federal Trade Commission, Facts For Consumers: ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen To Your Good Name. Here are some excerpts from the report:
My purse was stolen in December 1990. In February 1991, I started getting notices of bounced checks. About a year later, I received information that someone using my identity had defaulted on a number of lease agreements and bought a car. In 1997, I learned that someone had been working under my Social Security number for a number of years. A man had been arrested and used my SSN on his arrest sheet. Thereís a hit in the FBI computers for my SSN with a different name and gender. I canít get credit because of this situation. I was denied a mortgage loan, employment, credit cards, and medical care for my children. Iíve even had auto insurance denied, medical insurance and tuition assistance denied.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, January 2, 2001
My wallet was stolen in December 1998. Thereís been no end
to the problems Iíve faced since then. The thieves used my identity to write
checks, use a debit card, open a bank account with a line of credit, open credit
accounts with several stores, obtain cell phones and run up huge bills, print
fraudulent checks on a personal computer bearing my name, and more. Iíve spent
the last two years trying to repair my credit report (a very frustrating
process) and have suffered the ill effects of having a marred credit history.
Iíve recently been denied a student loan because of inaccurate
information on my credit report.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, February 22, 2001
I applied for a loan in November 2000 and was told I had bad credit. I requested a credit report in November 2000 and found all sorts of crazy information on it. Iím single but was listed as married. When I renewed my driverís license by mail, I was surprised to find someone elseís face on my license. This is a nightmare and requires a large amount of my time.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, October 5, 2001
FTC Report published September 3003: Overview of the Identity Theft Program. You might want to pay special attention to Charts & Figures on pages 8-12.
For more information on this devastating problem sweeping our country check the FTC ID Theft Home Page at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/reportstestimony_0203.html