With identity theft, a thief uses stolen personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank account number, to open accounts or initiate several transactions in your name. This may cause financial loss or damaged credit.
In general, identity theft is more extensive than identity fraud. If fraudulent transactions occur on your account, it does not automatically mean your identity was stolen. It may be an isolated incident of theft that can be quickly resolved. Here are just a few ways in which thieves might obtain your identity:
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you specific rights when you are, or believe that you are, the victim of identity theft. Learn more about your rights here.
Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen:
Searching your trash.
This is called "Dumpster Diving" – a term to describe people who rummage through your trash to find unshredded information like credit card offers, old bills, and bank statements.
Intercepting your mail.
Thieves can complete "change of address" forms and receive mail that's intended for you.
- Stealing your wallet or purse.
Your wallet or purse can contain a wealth of information about you, including your account numbers, address, and date of birth
- Accessing your employer's files.
Your place of work stores a lot of your personal and business information, and can be a target for identity thieves. Talk to your company's security officer to learn how your information is protected.
- Getting information directly from you.
Sometimes, thieves pose as telemarketers, or someone who might have a legitimate reason to ask for your personal information (like your bank, employer, or landlord). They even use fake emails and Web sites to try and obtain information from you.
- Over the Internet.
Be wary of emails asking you to give your personal information. Identity theft can be committed through e-mail (phishing).