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What Is Identity Theft? Definition

Credit Card Scams

What Is Identity Theft? Definition

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Identity theft definition

Identity theft is a term that covers a variety of crimes in which someone steals another person’s personal information, such as their Social Security number or bank account number, typically for the purpose of exploiting it for financial gain.

How identity theft happens

There are many ways in which a person might have their identity stolen. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a national nonprofit, identifies three basic avenues that ID thieves use: cyberattacks, human and system errors and physical attacks.

Cyberattacks include tactics such as “phishing,” where emails are made to look as if they come from your bank, credit card company or other legitimate source, and lure the recipient into opening a malicious attachment or link.

A related scam called “smishing” uses SMS (Short Message Service) text messages to steal data.

Identity thieves also take advantage of human errors: losing a computer or smartphone, leaving a restaurant without retrieving your credit card off the table, using weak passwords, failing to properly secure or dispose of physical documents, using public Wi-Fi to handle banking or other sensitive business, visiting unsecure websites and providing personal data to unsolicited telephone callers. Examples of system errors are failing to properly configure firewalls or cloud security and not securing your home network.

Stealing people’s physical mail, computers or important documents, and installing skimming devices on…

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