Identity theft is a type of fraud in which an individual misappropriates the personal information of another person for their own financial gain. Identity theft is a serious problem due to the victims being unable to reclaim their personal identity and their finances being drained without them even knowing. It can be costly for the victims in terms of time, money and credit repair costs.
Identity theft is committed by collecting otherwise legitimately obtained personal information—such as names, addresses and bank account numbers—and using it to commit fraudulent activities such as opening new bank accounts, using stolen credit cards, obtaining fraudulent loans, making large purchases or accessing confidential government information.
Once these activities are carried out, the criminal has access to the victim’s personal information, credit cards and bank accounts. Victims of identity theft are often unaware that they have been targeted until it is too late and they discover that identity theft occurred once they check their credit file or report some suspicious activity on their financial accounts.
There are a number of ways to prevent identity theft; such as avoiding sharing personal information online, shredding all documents that contain personal information and keeping personal documents, such as driver’s licenses, in a safe. Additionally, it is important to be aware of emails that come from unfamiliar sources.
In the event of identity theft, the victim should act immediately. The first step is to contact the police, inform their financial institutions and the credit bureaus. The next step is to file a police report and a stolen ID complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Additionally, the victim should contact their credit card companies and the creditors to put a fraud alert on their accounts.
Identity theft can be a frightening and difficult experience for those who fall victim to it. It is important to take preventative measures to protect one’s identity and to act quickly in the event of identity theft.