Although identity theft and identity fraud may seem similar. Though the terms may even be used interchangeably, they are not the same. Understanding the difference between these two crimes can help you protect yourself and prepare adequately to handle them when they happen.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the stealing of personal data (private or financial information) with the intent of using it to assume another’s person’s identity. Critical information that identity fraudsters target includes full name, date of birth, address, bank accounts, passwords, social security number, and credit card numbers.
Because of technological advancements, today’s criminals can commit identity theft on a broader scale than ever before. For example, They can hack into government and business servers and steal the personal information of millions of people instantly. Other common methods that criminals use to steal your data include:
- Malware- Fraudsters commonly use “freebies” to lure you into downloading free software loaded with malware to open up your computer and your network to the criminals.
- Phishing – In a phishing attempt, a criminal emails the intended victim using a malicious email. If the recipient of the email acts on it, the criminal gains access to a large amount of the victim’s data.
- Low tech tactics- An identity thief does not necessarily require sophisticated skills to steal personal details. Simple methods such as dumpster diving, mail theft, or collecting a lost wallet or mobile phone can help fraudsters lay their hands on valuable information.
What is identity fraud?
Identity fraud is the use of stolen private, personal, or financial information. Identity fraud affects the individual whose identity is used as well as the business where the fake identity is used to make transactions.
Fraudsters don’t always have to use the identity of a living person. They sometimes use the identity of a deceased person to commit fraud. Criminals can also use different pieces of information from different people to create a new identity.
Some of the most common types of identity fraud include:
- Credit card fraud – A criminal uses a stolen credit card or credit card number to purchase something
- Phone or utility fraud involves using someone else’s info to open a cell phone or utility account
- Loan or lease fraud- Using someone else’s information to get a lease or a loan
- Employment or tax-related fraud- Utilizing someone else’s info and social security number to file an income tax return or gain employment
- Bank fraud- Fraudsters use someone else’s details to open an account or take over an existing financial account
- Government benefits fraud- Obtaining government benefits by using someone else’s information
- Criminal identity fraud- An arrestee uses someone else’s name and identifying information when presenting himself or herself to the authorities.
As you can see, there is a difference between these two crimes. While identity theft is the stealing of someone else’s private information, identity fraud is the fraudulent use of this information. Remember to keep your private information safe. This will help minimize the chances of becoming a future victim of identity theft or fraud.