Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Identity Theft Definition:

The wrongful taking or using another person's identifying information for the purpose of fraud or other criminal activity.

Identity theft usually has economic gain as a motive but it has also been used a a weapon of, or to conceal acts of terrorism.

Identity theft leads to the crime of identity fraud.

A person's identity - individual or corporation - includes his or her name, represents the most sacred personal asset.

Flowing from a name is other critical personal identity data such as date of birth, social insurance or security numbers, health card number, driver's license and bank, PIN and, the most valuable of all: credit card numbers.

Once the theft is complete, the personal identity information is used to set up consumer scams on others or to impersonate the victim and effect financial transactions to the thief or his associates, in the name and at the expense of the victim.

Perpetrators of identity theft often use the information to obtain even more personal personification documents such as birth certificates, passport or immigration documents leading to education expenses or even the redirection of retirement or pension funds.

The harvesting of identity information by identity occurs covertly, typically without the knowledge or even within the presence of the victim. Thieves feed on the ubiquitous nature of personal identity data.

The crime can be committed as simply as peering over a victim's shoulder when they input their PIN while making an withdrawal at an automatic teller machine; or digging through garbage for bank or credit card statements. Often a victim of break and enter or wallet/purse theft will find that their most valued personal documents are gone as the thieves know they can get good coin for the resale of these stolen assets.

The FBI reports on one egregious example of identity theft:

"The criminal, a convicted felon, not only incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in the victim's name, but called his victim to taunt him -- saying that he could continue to pose as the victim for as long as he wanted because identity theft was not a federal crime at that time -- before filing for bankruptcy, also in the victim's name. While the victim and his wife spent more than four years and more than $15,000 of their own money to restore their credit and reputation, the criminal served a brief sentence for making a false statement to procure a firearm, but made no restitution to his victim for any of the harm he had caused."

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