Before the age of computers and the Internet, identity theft was only possible in very specific ways. The focus of the theft in these situations was on financial gain, and typically stemmed from ATM cards being stolen, checks being falsely handled and cashed, or obtaining credit cards in other people's names. Though these types of theft are serious and need to be handled as such, computers have allowed thieves to dive deeper into the personal information of others with very little effort. In part, this is due to the fact that many internet users use very little thought when coming up with passwords and entering their information. This combined with setting up multiple accounts, projects or games increases their online presence, and means that they are freely giving out their information, which can become problematic when and if thieves get their hands on it.
Where Does Identity Theft Occur?
There are two types of identity theft: online and in person.These two types can be further broken down into individual instances of identity theft, which include different categories that the theft falls into. When identity theft is done online, people often strike hard and fast, doing everything in one fell swoop so that the likelihood of getting caught is decreased. In person identity theft may occur at a slower pace, which gives the thieves more time to do things like withdraw money from ATMs, open store charge cards, or even rack up purchases over an extended period of time before the true individual even knows what is happening.
Specific Cases of Identity Theft
While not exhaustive, the following is a list of some of the most prevalent instances of identity theft that people face today.
- Financial identity theft is one of the most common types of theft. Data breaches, card compromises, and in some cases, sheer carelessness are reasons for this to happen.
- Driver’s license or personal identification identity theft is also quite common, and happens when a purse or wallet is stolen, and someone uses your identification for their own personal gain. This includes state issued forms of identification, passports, ID badges and even store loyalty cards.
- Social Security theft happens when your number is stolen and used by someone that is hoping to gain financially without having to have put in the time or effort to work for their reward. Felons, illegal immigrants and those who are having their wages garnished or are working "off the books" are some of the most common groups of people that partake in this type of identity theft.
- Targeting children in cases of identity theft is quite crafty, and has been happening more and more. These thieves are often very hard to catch for one big reason: children have no need to access their credit reports or use their Social Security number until they are trying to get a job or go to school, therefore theft may occur for many years before being noticed, at which time it can be difficult to trace. Sadly, in cases like this, it is often someone with close ties to the family that has obtained and misused the child's information and identity.