What is identity theft? What is credit card fraud? Let’s find out.
Identity theft is any use of your personal information by someone else that you did not authorize. Identity thieves gather information such as your name, social security number, birth date, passwords, or credit card numbers in order to commit crimes.
Credit card fraud is a form of identity theft that occurs when someone gains access to your credit card account number and uses it to buy things, take out cash advances, open new credit accounts, and conduct other illegal schemes.
What’s the damage?
Fraudulent transactions can affect your credit rating and finances if they are not identified and handled immediately. While some victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many weeks repairing damage to their good name and credit record.
Victims of identity theft, in particular, may be denied jobs and 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.
What can thieves do with my information?
Open new bank or charge accounts or take out a loan in your name.
Rent an apartment and sign up for utility services in your name.
Change your credit card billing address so you don't see fraudulent charges on your statement.
Get a driver's license or ID card with your name and address and their photograph.
Recognizing Typical ID Theft and Credit Scams
"Phishing." Phishing (pronounced "fishing") is an attempt to collect personal information by posing as a trusted source. For example, an e-mail or phone call may appear to be from your bank, a website you have an account with such as eBay, or even a potential employer. They may have partial information, such as your user name or account number, and ask you to "confirm" your expiration date, billing address, or password. Links in e-mails may send you to fake but convincing websites that collect information that allows someone else to access your accounts. Clicking on links in e-mails or opening attachments can also install malicious software on your computer that can collect your personal information or send e-mail spam in your name.
Dumpster diving. Some identity thieves go through trash or recycling bins looking for receipts and paperwork with your personal information.
Stealing your belongings. Credit cards, checks, and even personal account information are commonly carried in purses, wallets, backpacks, and laptops—all of which can be easily stolen.