The first steps toward protecting yourself from identity theft involve understanding what it is, why it happens and how it can affect you.

Identity theft definition

Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses information that identifies you personally without your permission. This identifying information can include your name, Social Security number, credit card information, and, unfortunately, so much more.Once a criminal has accessed or stolen your personal information, he or she may then use this information to commit fraud and exploit your finances. The types of fraud that criminals commonly commit include making unauthorized purchases or opening unauthorized bank accounts or credit lines. Millions of people have their identities stolen every year, leading to billions of dollars lost.

The history of identity theft

Due to the recent spike in identity theft, many people assume that the crime came into being because of the Internet. The truth is that identity theft has been around for as long as there have been identities to steal.

It used to be the case that when a criminal wanted to steal someone’s identity, the common practice was to assume the identity of a deceased person in a type of scheme now referred to as “ghosting.” In times before photo IDs became prevalent, this practice was much easier to get away with.

The arrival of the Digital Age meant that identity thieves no longer had to rely as much on face-to-face deception and physically tracking down documents. Now they can use the anonymity of the Internet to do much of their dirty work electronically.

As technology has evolved, identity theft has evolved with it. Many of today’s identity thieves are tech-savvy, exploiting the public’s use of email, social media and cellphones. In 2012, 12.6 million adults were victims of identity fraud.1

Learn more about identity theft is dedicated to providing you with valuable resources that can help protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft. Use this website to learn more about the types of identity theft that could potentially affect you and your family.

Feel free to check out identity theft statistics, tips and other resources on this website to learn more about how you can take proactive measures and protect yourself from this surprisingly common and costly crime.

1 Javelin Strategy & Research: 2012 Identity Fraud Survey Report

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