Identity theft FAQs
Where could an identity thief access your personal information?
Identity thieves have grown more sophisticated in their methods. They can steal personal and financial information using a variety of electronic and low-tech methods.
Examples of how an identity thief can access your personal information.
There are many ways an identity thief can steal your personal information, here are the most common:
- Steal wallets or purses in order to obtain identification, credit and bank cards.
- Dig through mail and trash in search of bank and credit card statements, preapproved credit card offers, tax information and other documents that may contain personal details.
- Fill out change-of-address forms to forward mail, which generally contains personal and financial information.
- Tricks a victim into believing they have a trusted relationship with a family member or friend.
- Impersonation - scammers call victims claiming they work for the IRS, Social Security Administration or a bank.
- Buy personal information from an inside, third party source, such as a company employee who has access to applications for credit.
- Obtain personnel records from a victim’s place of employment.
- “Skim” information from an ATM — this is done through an electronic device, which is attached to the ATM, that can steal the information stored on a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip.
- Swipe personal information that has been shared on unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi.
- Steal electronic records through a data breach.
- “Phish” for electronic information with phony emails, fake websites, text messages and websites that are solely designed to steal sensitive information.
What are the impacts of Identity theft and is it a felony?
The effects of identity theft can last for years. Often the emotional toll is significant - a large number of victims report sleep disturbances and physical systems related to stress. Identity theft can damage your credit rating, hurt your employment prospects and increase insurance premiums. And if someone used your identity to commit a crime, it could wind up with you getting arrested.
Do police investigate identity theft?
If you are a victim of identity theft, the USA.gov recommends that you file an identity theft report with the police, especially if:
- your identity was used during a police interaction (traffic stop or arrest);
- you know the person who committed the fraud; or
- a creditor or another company requires you to (many do)
Verizon requires a police report if identity theft involves your Verizon accounts. If identify theft impacts any of your Verizon accounts, you can file a fraud claim online.
Is identity theft a felony?
Every state has a law regarding identity theft or criminal impersonation. Criminal penalties and the restitution provisions vary by state. For more information visit ncsl.org.