Identity Theft

Identity TheftIdentity theft has been one of the most common forms of online fraud, affecting millions of victims, and increasingly on the rise with the further spread of the Internet. Identity theft is the process by which the cybercriminal steals the victim’s personal information, such as name, address, social security number, employment information, etc., with the goal of using that information to assume a false identity in further fraudulent activities. This process of illegitimately gathering private data is commonly known as “phishing.” Often, the way victims are duped into giving out their sensitive information is through fraudulent emails, purporting to originate from banks or other respectable institutions, asking for the user’s credit card number, social security number, address, and other such information through a “phishing site.” These sites often look legitimate, or are near-perfect copies of actually existing institutions, but the data that the victim enters on these websites is transmitted to a cybercriminal instead, and is used for fraudulent purposes.

Many people consider identity theft and identity fraud to be synonyms, but they mean different things. Identity fraud merely means assuming an identity other than the criminal’s own to perpetrate fraud, but it does not necessarily mean that identity theft was involved–sometimes, the identity assumed is that of a third party also involved in the scam, or a completely fictitious identity altogether.