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Identity Theft Resource Page

The National Crisis of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a form of fraud or cheating of another person's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name. The victim of identity theft (here meaning the person whose identity has been assumed by the identity thief) can suffer adverse consequences if he or she is held accountable for the perpetrator's actions. Organizations and individuals who are duped or defrauded by the identity thief can also suffer adverse consequences and losses, and to that extent are also victims.

Identity cloning and concealment

In this situation, the identity thief impersonates someone else in order to conceal their own true identity. Examples might be illegal immigrants, people hiding from creditors or other individuals, or those who simply want to become "anonymous" for personal reasons. Unlike identity theft used to obtain credit which usually comes to light when the debts mount, concealment may continue indefinitely without being detected, particularly if the identity thief is able to obtain false credentials in order to pass various authentication tests in everyday life.


Criminal Identity Theft

When a criminal fraudulently identifies himself to police as another individual at the point of arrest, it is sometimes referred to as "Criminal Identity Theft." In some cases criminals have previously obtained state-issued identity documents using credentials stolen from others, or have simply presented fake ID. Provided the subterfuge works, charges may be placed under the victim's name, letting the criminal off the hook. Victims might only learn of such incidents by chance, for example by receiving court summons, discovering their drivers licenses are suspended when stopped for minor traffic violations, or through background checks performed for employment purposes.

It can be difficult for the victim of a criminal identity theft to clear their record. The steps required to clear the victim's incorrect criminal record depend on what jurisdiction the crime occurred in and whether the true identity of the criminal can be determined. The victim might need to locate the original arresting officers and prove their own identity by some reliable means such as fingerprinting or DNA fingerprinting, and may need to go to a court hearing to be cleared of the charges. Obtaining an expungement of court records may also be required. Authorities might permanently maintain the victim's name as an alias for the criminal's true identity in their criminal records databases. One problem that victims of criminal identity theft may encounter is that various data aggregators might still have the incorrect criminal records in their databases even after court and police records are corrected. Thus it is possible that a future background check will return the incorrect criminal records. This is just one example of the kinds of impact that may continue to affect the victims of identity theft for some months or even years after the crime, aside from the psychological trauma that being 'cloned' typically engenders.


Synthetic Identity Theft

A variation of identity theft which has recently become more common is synthetic identity theft, in which identities are completely or partially fabricated. The most common technique involves combining a real social security number with a name and birthdate other than the ones associated with the number. Synthetic identity theft is more difficult to track as it doesn't show on either person's credit report directly, but may appear as an entirely new file in the credit bureau or as a subfile on one of the victim's credit reports. Synthetic identity theft primarily harms the creditors who unwittingly grant the fraudsters credit. Individual victims can be affected if their names become confused with the synthetic identities, or if negative information in their subfiles impacts their credit ratings.


Medical identity theft

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a person's name and sometimes other parts of their identity—such as insurance information—without the person's knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods, or uses the person’s identity information to make false claims for medical services or goods. Medical identity theft frequently results in erroneous entries being put into existing medical records, which may in turn lead to inappropriate and potentially life-threatening decisions by medical staff.


Got a complaint?

According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit reporting agency and the organization that provided the information, such as your bank or credit card company, must correct inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report. Contact the credit reporting agency and the information provider to dispute any information.

To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues: www.ftc.gov


Call toll-free, 877-FTC-HELP
Order your free credit report; complete this form and send it to the three major credit bureaus: Annual Free Credit Report request-form
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com which is the official Website to help consumers to obtain their free credit report

Privacy Rights web links:

Guide to Online Privacy Resources


Privacy Rights Clearing House

Privacy Rights NOW!

Employment Background Checks:  A Job Seekers Guide

Legal Aid Society  Employment Law


ID Theft & Fraud web links:

ID Theft Center

US Department of Justice - Criminal ID Thef

BBB Feature - Identity Theft 

Call For Action -- Empowering Consumers and Educating About Identity Theft

Fraud and Identity Theft Information

Identity Theft Resources 

Identity Theft Prevention and Survival 

Identity Theft  -  Social Security Administration

Reporting Fraud  -  Social Security Administration

Office of Privacy Protection - California Department of Consumer Affairs 

Registry Application Process - CA Dept. of Justice - Office of the Attorney General 

Tips for Victims - Identity Theft - CA DoJ - Office of the Attorney Genera

Consumer Internet Privacy Protection Act of 1997

NFIC - Links to Online Resources 

F T C home page for consumers

Federal Trade Commission

The Computer Security Institute

Scam Watch

National Fraud Center

Scam Busters

US Postal Inspection Service

Stay Safe Online

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Anti Phishing Working Group

Consumer Advice: How to Avoid Phishing Scams


Credit Problem & Remedies web links:

National Credit Reporting Association

Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions

The FTC’s website on Credit

Rebuilding Credit FAQ’s from NOLO Press

What to do if there’s an error on your Credit Report from NOLO Press


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