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How Identity Theft Occurs

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which serves as a clearinghouse for complaints about identity theft, has identified several means by which an identity thief may perpetrate the crime. These include the following:

  • Obtaining personal information of others while on the job
  • Hacking personal records
  • Bribing or conning an employee who has access to personal records
  • Stealing a victim’s wallet or purse
  • Stealing personal information through email, phone, or other means, in a practice known as “phishing”
  • Stealing credit or debt card numbers by capturing information in a data storage device, in a practice known as “skimming”
  • Obtaining a person’s credit report
  • Rummaging through a person’s trash can or the trash can of a business, in a practice known as “dumpster diving”
  • Stealing personal information found in a victim’s home
  • Stealing mail, including bank and credit card statements, offers for new credit cards, new checks, and tax information
  • Completing a change of address form so that the victim’s mail is sent to another location

Once an identity thief has obtained the personal information of a victim, the perpetrator may engage in a number of activities. Some of these illegal activities include the following:

  • Establishing a phone or wireless service in the name of the victim
  • Opening new credit card accounts in the victim’s name
  • Calling credit card companies to change the billing address of the victim’s account (so that the victim will not receive statements)
  • Creating counterfeit checks, credit cards, or debit cards
  • Authorizing electronic transfers in the victim’s name
  • Draining bank accounts
  • Buying a car or taking out a automobile loan in the victim’s name
  • Getting a job or filing a fraudulent tax return in the victim’s name
  • Giving the victim’s name to the police during an arrest

Inside How Identity Theft Occurs