What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. Identity theft
occurs when a thief illegally obtains personal information, such as a Social Security
and/or driver's license number, to open credit accounts or buy merchandise in the name
of another person. The thief runs up charges on fraudulent accounts and does not
repay them. The victim does not know about the accounts and he or she also does
not repay them, which then damages the victim's credit rating.
Identity theft is costly to its victims. Consumers may spend countless hours over
the course of several years trying to clear up their credit rating. This does not
include the emotional and psychological stress felt by victims trying to correct
their credit history. Identity theft victims may lose job opportunities, be
refused loans for education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes
they didn't commit.
How do you know if your identity has been stolen?
If you are receiving phone calls from creditors demanding payment for items
that you never bought or for accounts that you never opened.
If you discover large withdrawals of money from your checking account.
If your bills are not arriving on time as they have in the past.
If you are turned down for a car loan, mortgage, or even a cell phone plan and
have had no credit problems in the past. There may be incorrect information in your
How do the thieves get your information?
The thieves steal a wallet or purse that will provide them with all the information
they need. Others steal your mail or complete a change-of-address form for you and
have your mail redirected elsewhere. Many go through your trash - they practice
"dumpster diving" to find papers showing your Social Security number, credit card
number, or other identifying information. Other thieves look over your shoulder
as you input your PIN number at an ATM.
K-State Research & Extension Service publication Privacy in the Information Age
Utah State University Extension publication Preventing Identity Theft
Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheet Identity Theft: AViolent Nonviolent Crime
Diane L. Burnett, email@example.com
County Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Miami County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension