Legal Topics


Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing issue in the modern world. As a criminal act, identity theft refers to using someone else's personal information--such as their name, account number, or credit card information--without permission for the purpose of committing fraud and other crimes.

While identity theft can include physically impersonating someone for criminal gain, it is more common for such acts to be based on illegal access to another person's electronic records or account information. The most common attack is to steal a person's Social Security number, name, and birthdate, which most security protocols rely on for authorization. Other common methods include email scams (or "phishing"), unintentional downloads of malware and spyware, and browsing through social networking profiles for personal details and data.

Proving identity theft requires diligent examination of one's documents and accounts. Being able to categorize irregularities--like unauthorized payments or charges--is key to determining the pattern behind identity theft and where you're most vulnerable. A fraud alert can be placed on a vulnerable account or credit card, so that when it's illegally used again, the authorities can follow the source of the attack.

You should always immediately report signs of suspicious activity to the proper authorities and ensure that you have a good attorney for legal counsel and aid in handling an identity theft case. Consider going to to find a suitable attorney for your needs.

To prevent identity theft is more difficult, but not impossible. The most important thing to remember is to keep your access secure, which means protecting your PIN, Social Security, and credit card numbers. If you frequently use online accounts, be sure to change your passwords just as often. You can also obtain monthly statements from banks and credit card providers to check for unauthorized payments and account errors, which of course should be reported immediately. Finally, in the event that a loved one passes away, you can protect their identity from being stolen by keeping their personal documents in a safe and secure place.

If you fall victim to identity theft, you can easily find resources for help and reporting. One non-profit that provides victim counseling is the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can also consult the government website on identity theft or the Consumer Information page provided by the Federal Trade Commission.

Image by Clint Chilcott on Flickr

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