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What is identity theft?

As online activity becomes increasingly common, fraud and theft can increase as well, unfortunately. Because of this, it is important to know how to stay safe online, which begins by understanding what identity theft is and what it refers to.

Identity theft refers to when a victim’s personal information, including their social security number, credit card information, driver’s license number and name, may be used to commit fraud such as making fraudulent purchases or opening up fraudulent accounts in the victim’s name and using the victim’s personal information. Information used in identity theft crimes can be illegally obtained in a variety of ways including through data hacks of large electronic databases such as those maintained by many companies.

In addition to hacking crimes, identity information can be stolen in other ways such as through devices used in credit card readers, by watching over the victim’s shoulder at an ATM for personal information, through theft of credit card statements and in other ways as well. Consumer fraud can cause significant harm to victims, which is why they should be familiar with legal resources available to help them. Victims of identity theft have important steps to take following the theft of their personal information.

For those who have experienced identity theft, legal protections include the option to file a complaint and utilize federal and state resources. There are also criminal consequences for identity theft and consumer fraud, which is why anyone involved in the damage caused by identity theft and consumer fraud should be familiar with the legal resources available to help and protect them.

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