University of Idaho Extension

What Identity Theft Is

Credit card graphic

A Growing Crime

Identity theft is often done by people you know. Family, neighbors, and co-workers account for half of all known identity thieves.

According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, government documents/benefits fraud (34%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (17%), phone or utilities fraud (14%), and bank fraud (8%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (6%) and loan fraud (4%).

  • 13.1 million victims of identity fraud in 2013
  • An estimated $18 billion stolen from consumers

How Identity Theft Occurs

Identity thieves steal purses and wallets, randomly use Social Security numbers, find personal information in homes, complete false change-of-address forms, and obtain personal information from work sites.

They can take your trash ("dumpster dive"), fraudulently obtain your credit report, "skim" your credit or debit cards, shoulder surf, or steal your mail.

Identity thieves can steal your personal information through email or phone by claiming to be a legitimate company and stating that there is a problem with your account. That's called "phishing" if done online and "pretexting" if done by phone.

Identity theft is often done by people you know. Family, neighbors, and co-workers account for half of all known identity thieves. Two-thirds of cases are offline (theft of wallet or trash).

How the Thief Works

An identity thief uses your information to obtain new credit cards, forge checks or debit cards and drain accounts, open new bank accounts, receive utilities, file a bankruptcy case, and commit crimes.

Developed by:

Marsha Lockard
University of Idaho Extension Educator-Owyhee County
P.O Box 400 (238 8th Avenue West)
Marsing, ID 83639
(208) 896-4104
mlockard@uidaho.edu

2014 Update by:

Nancy M. Porter, Ph.D.
Extension Personal and Family Finance Consultant
University of Idaho
(864) 650-8289
nporter@uidaho.edu

Other credits:

Educational Communications,
University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences:
Editing: Marlene Fritz, Communications Specialist, Boise
Web Design: Jacob Peterson, Web Designer, Moscow

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