What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the criminal act of taking an individual’s identity without their knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity thieves steal personal information such as the victim’s name, social security number, driver license information, and bank or credit card accounts. This information is then used to make purchases, apply for loans, establish credit and/or seek employment. The theft commonly occurs for several months, sometimes years, before the victim is even aware it happened.

Identity theft is much more than an inconvenience, it can destroy the victim’s credit rating and disrupt their financial security. Based on data collected by the Federal Trade Commission in 2010, Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity complaints followed by Arizona and California.

Identity thieves have adapted and become savvier over the last decade as technology has improved. Theft can occur through a “ruse” of extracting sensitive information by sending phony email from what appears to be a legitimate company or by ‘dumpster diving’ to collect account statements that were not shredded.