What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the act of using someone's personal information - such as an account number, driver's license, health insurance card or Social Security number - and using the assumed identity to commit fraud or theft. Identity theft is the single fastest growing crime in the nation - a $50 billion a year industry that continues to expand its reach. According to a recent Federal Trade Commission survey, 30 million Americans - or 13.5% of all U.S. adults - fell victim to identity fraud in 2006.* Another FTC report states that 91% of adults surveyed fear that their identities could be stolen.**

  • The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.*** In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some sort of identity theft. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make - or until a debt collector contacts you.
  • Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend thousands of dollars and many months repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

*Federal Trade Commission Customer Fraud Survey, 2007
**Prepared Statement of the Federal Trade Commission before the Maryland Task Force to Study Identity Theft, 2007
***Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Site, 2007

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