Identity theft definition

What is the difference between identity theft and identity fraud? They are both used interchangeably. Let's dig into identity theft definition and how you can fight back

Identity theft definition
  • In this short 6 minutes read article
  • How you lose your identity
  • What to do if you become a victim

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is no joke. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or fraudulently get a tax refund. They do this all for their own personal gain at your expense, causing great damage to your financial history and your good name and reputation. 


What is the difference between identity theft and identity fraud?

According to the Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud are both terms used to refer to a crime of one person obtaining other persons personal information fraudulently and uses it for personal economic gain. 


What can criminals do with your personal information?

  • Open new credit cards and obtain loans in your name.
  • File fraudulent tax returns and receive your tax refund.
  • Withdraw money from your bank account or make purchases
  • File fake health insurance claims
  • Sell your info to other criminals
  • Even steal and use children’s social security numbers.

Read:  How legal aid works.

How identity theft happens

You are sitting at home and you suddenly start receiving bills you don’t recognize. You may receive debt collection calls from debt collectors. Criminals obtain your personal info in many ways:

  • Data breaches. This is always in the news. Company computer systems being compromised
  • Phishing. Emails that replicate genuine companies with sites that ask you to log in.
  • Personal documents being stolen. You should shred even the pre-approved credit card offers in the mail.
  • Looking over your shoulder while you log in. Mostly in open wifi networks. Learn how to create strong passwords.


5 Steps to take after identity theft


File an initial fraud alert with the three main credit reporting agencies.

Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. You can file with one of them only as they are required to pass that information to the other two agencies. Filing this report is free and stays on your report for ninety days. 

Request a credit freeze on your account.

This puts a lock on your credit report. If anyone from any company requests the report, they are denied until you authorize them access. This should actually be done all year round for added protection. You will have to contact all three agencies to request a credit freeze.

File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.

They have a dedicated website for this. Just follow the instructions. Obtain your affidavit. Next, take your affidavit to your local police and file an identity theft report locally. You will obtain your police report.

Contact all three reporting agencies’ fraud department.

Dispute every fraudulent activity on your credit report. You will need to do this with all three agencies. You will need to contact all banks, loan companies as well as all collection agencies coming after you. Prepare to make a lot of phone calls. Most importantly, keep a record of every phone call or email for your records. You will have to be your best advocate.

Place an extended fraud alert with all three credit report agencies.

This is also a free report that stays in place for seven years. It allows you to get two free credit reports every year so that you can stay aware of any activities and changes that may occur. 

You will have to be vigilant and your own best advocate. Obtain your free credit report immediately.