What’s the definition and meaning for identity theft in today’s world?

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The term identity theft gets thrown around so liberally, and it’s frustrating to me, because a person’s “identity” comprises so many variables that people don’t immediately realize. The dictionary defines identity theft as “the fraudulent acquisition and use of a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain,” but I’m guessing that’s an outdated definition. To clear the air (and to help me prepare for my social studies class), could you guys provide me with what you would consider to be the meaning of  ID theft? Much obliged, and for the record I consider you guys to be the experts on this particular topic 🙂

-Josh V

Answer

The dictionary definition is correct, but you’re right it’s somewhat broad. We would define identity theft (or conversely identity fraud) as a crime in which an individual posing as someone else takes advantage of one or more sensitive and personally identifiable pieces of information (such as a date of birth, address, social security number, driver’s license number, etc.) in order to impersonate that other individual. The key here is impersonate, since the resulting crime can only be successful if they fool people into thinking they’re someone they’re not. The crimes that result from this, as you may guess, become more numerous as we rely more on technological advances. The balance between the benefits technology provides, and privacy it takes away from us, becomes more precarious the more comfortable our lives become.

-Alex, Safe Smart Living

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