Talk:Identity theft

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It would be pretty easy to fix ID theft[edit]

All you need is a database, , you put in a password, you generate a specialized ID for a service, you give the service the specialized ID, if the ID gets used for anything else, you can track the ID's use and apprehend the person. That's all you need to end this problem. The utilization of multiple forms of static ID's is why it can occur. All you need is a random set of those ID's, and you can open any selection of services in someone else's name.. And the police department (in America) will not pursue cases that don't have "suspects". Obviously the government is attacking the problem from the wrong end. Fix the ID system.. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 108.201.173.189 (talk) 21:08, 16 October 2012 (UTC)


outdated references[edit]

hello. Ref. 4 is not reachable. regards. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.202.108.228 (talk) 19:56, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

I have added an external link that references footnote 4 as well as footnotes 2 and 3. Vaheterdu (talk) 14:28, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

comment[edit]

Didn't we used to call this fraud? 83.245.26.153 07:51, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes but by calling it identity theft, it conveniently gains the acronym IT. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 69.203.84.63 (talk) 21:49, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

...and revealing the activities undertaken by the thief under the name of the victim would have serious consequences like loss of job or marriage.

Yeah, marriage sounds like a pretty serious consequence... ;) - furrykef (Talk at me) 06:58, 7 Mar 2005 (UTC)

This article is extremely biased towards the USA. It should be renamed Identity theft in the USA, or substantially re-written to make it "country neutral". I'll make a start with the latter in due course.Arcturus 19:15, 9 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I've altered the article to bring in some stuff about the UK, and clarify points relating mainly to the USA, but it could do with perspectives from other countries. Hopefully someone will contribute. Arcturus 23:29, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Techniques for obtaining information[edit]

Probably some smartass vandal, but the phrase

If you live in the UK none of the above are required, you can simply wait for the government to lose your sensitive data and for it to fall into the hands of identity fraudsters. [9] This is far from limited to the UK exclusively though.

looks glaringly less than objective. It's been referenced though, I haven't looked at the reference.. is it necessary to keep that little rant in the article? 124.177.178.52 14:54, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

day of the jackal[edit]

the jackal actually steals at least three identities. his "true" identity is not discovered, even upon his death. --71.112.39.160 5 July 2005 03:19 (UTC)

Help needed[edit]

does any one know the actual consequences, like fines or jail time, foe offenders? i'm doing a school thing and i would appreciate it if any one had any info over the subject to contact me at (jcarlisle@stu.shilder.k12.ok.us) please, any relevant information is welcome! thanks, jo

Jo, the only reference I could find that specifically mentions penalties is :http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/idtheft.html. Go to the section marked "What's The Department Of Justice Doing About Identity Theft And Fraud?"
Also - on a discussion page, when you put a comment in, click on the 'signature' button at the top of the edit box (third from left, looks like 'running writing'). This will put your name and a timestamp on your entry like this >>> --Nickj69 07:32, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

If you still need help, email me: dhs14@cornell.edu. If charged as a felony in California, sentence can be 16 months, 2 years or 3 years for the first count in a conviction, and somewhat less than that for each additional count a person is convicted of.Dhs14 07:13, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Objection to the term[edit]

Some people object to the term "identity theft" as identity is not something that can be stolen: victims don't cease being who they are. Well what a wonderful assurance that is. Honestly, is there any reason to keep this section? Is anyone actually offended by the term identity theft? If not, I think it should be taken out. Aplomado - UTC 00:57, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

You make a fair point. Who are these people that object - the "some people" (weasel words). It's probably only the founder of Javelin mentioned in the section, who I suspect wrote this section anyway. The point being made is reasonable - how can you steal someone's identity as such - but as to objections to the term, that phrase could safely be removed while leaving most of the section in place. Arcturus 15:05, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

I think this article tries to distinguish the many actual crimes and torts that is actually being committed and tying them to the use of impersonation to achieve those other crimes. We can't help it if ABC, NBC, and CBS cannot write stories accurately, they are going for ratings. John wesley 20:36, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

I have to agree. It may not be a legally correct term (although I believe in the USA it is a recognised crime) but it is a phrase in common usage. Too much of the article is taken up with this discussion - could we perhaps collapse it into the section called "alternative terms" ? --Nickj69 07:27, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Since there were no objections, I've done this. Removed the section and moved some of the text into the 'alternative terms' section. Will continue with more copy editing later. --Nickj69 09:28, 28 June 2006 (UTC)


I found the lead sentence
Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully acquires or uses another person's personal data, typically for their own financial gain.
to have numerous problems. First, it isn't a definition. Then, it ignores the literal meaning of the term: it's about stealing identity, not stealing information. Stealing the information is just the means (one of them) of doing it. I have fixed it. Also, this is all very vague to someone who doesn't already know the phenomenon, so I added a clear example as the second paragraph.
As for theft vs fraud: I believe when the term was coined, it really was meant to evoke a criminal taking an identify from a victim such that the victim no longer had it. It's the idea that you can't use your own name anymore because the reputation associated with that name is now that of a whole different person -- one who doesn't pay his bills, no less. I mention that in my rewrite.
Unfortunately, the term is widely used now to mean something as simple as using someone else's credit card number. That hardly justifies the wording "identity theft." Is it identity theft if someone uses my laundry room key? If he drives my car? But I left existing paragraphs that talk about these misuses of the term.
Incidentally, I don't believe there is a legal definition because it isn't a crime per se anywhere. Taking confidential information is often a crime; defrauding people is a crime. Laws have been written to combat identity theft, but they aim at more specific behaviors.
Bryan Henderson 18:46, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Bryan, the definition I used was actually taken from the US Department of Justice page entitled "What are Identity theft and Identity Fraud?". It includes references to a US "Identity Theft Act" which "created a new offense of identity theft", so it is a specific crime in the US. Please have a look at the DOJ link at the bottom of the page to see the reference. I opted to use that definition to avoid the confusion that was arising from everyone using their own personal interpretation of the term. If you have a source which would suggest otherwise, I would be happy to look at that too. Let me know what you think, --Nickj69 09:38, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
BTW- happy to keep the second paragraph as a clarifying example because it still fits the original definition. --Nickj69 09:38, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

It is incorrect to say "there is no such thing as "identity theft'". The term "identity theft" exists as a term in the public policy debate. You can say it's a misnomer or the term is not literally accurate because you can't steal an identity, but nonetheless, the term does exist.

Also, the term is used by more than just the media. It has been used by legislators, regulators and law enforcement to identify a crime. What ID theft consists of can be debated, however.Vaheterdu (talk) 15:06, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree and I have reworded the first paragraph.Steve (talk) 20:51, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Proposal[edit]

I'd like to put some of the criticism of the term back in, ideally along with information on how it came into wide use. The major issue is not just that identities can't be stolen, but the term changes the perceived victim of crime. What could be seen as a crime against, e.g. bank, now becomes a crime against the person being impersonated, and therefore apparently less the bank's responsibility to prevent and deal with.


I can think of two critics of the term right now: Ross Anderson, in Security Engineering, p 32. See http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ILaY4jBWXfcC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32

and following Anderson's reference, What Price Privacy? (and why identity theft is about neither identity nor theft). by Adam Shostack and Paul Syverson. In Economics of Information Security, Chapter 11, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004.

Also Mitchell and Webb explained it nicely in a radio sketch. I think you might even be able to justify having a separate article on the term "Identity Theft", as separate from the activity, except that Wikipedia has no neat way to do that. sorsoup (talk) 18:32, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Good idea. Victims tend to panic and think "it's all on them" to clean up the results, letting the banks off the hook. --CliffC (talk) 20:14, 4 December 2008 (UTC)


(Note: Capitol One is trying to make money off of me, even though I said I had my Identity stollen, I have proof they sent me a credit card, in hopes that I would enable it.. The Banks don't care who gets the credit cards, they just want someone to pay) BTW, Also keep in mind some of the people here are the ones thieving, you can expect they will be here to confuse people.. So if you read anything that looks like a objection that Identity can't be stollen, it's someone just trying to distract people from the problem and likely trying to avoid solving the problem, which is easy to solve.. Take a look at Paypal, they've already fixed the problem. It's that the methods of identifying people in existence are old and outdated and need to be updated, fixed.. Instead we are just layering bureaucracy on this archaic crap 108.201.173.189 (talk) 21:18, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

Incorrect premise[edit]

Although it is informative I have to say I disagree with some major points of the article.

Take the first sentence - Identity theft (or identity fraud) is a technically incorrect term used by the media to describe a crime, tort or other harmful act by deliberately impersonating an individual.

I don't believe the term is incorrect.

Surely identity theft is the process of stealing the data required to impersonate someone to then commit a crime, such as credit card fraud? You can't commmit the fraud without my personal data hence you need to steal it (I won't give it to you). Since my identity in society is embodied by that data, you have indeed stolen my identity.

Technically (or more accurately 'legally') you may not have stolen anything but that would depend upon local laws and interpretation.

If no one objects strenuously I will attempt to rewrite the intro and we can see what people think. We can retain the "accuracy of the term" section to debate the correct technical/legal terminology.

Thoughts? --Nickj69 10:24, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

I broadly concur, but equally identity theft is not a crime in most cases - it's what is done with the identity that matters. -- zzuuzz (talk) 12:23, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
Okay, I've posted a rewrite of the introduction. If anyone would like to add anything or comment feel free. --Nickj69 07:23, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
alright, i'm somewhat new to wikipedia, but i do have a few comments here. first, often times the victims of the identity theft do give give their password or whatever, either knowingly or through some other way such as not encrypting the transaction over the internet. so i can't agree completely with you. but probably unrelated to this is that i find the line "Identity theft is not possible without serious breaches of privacy. If corporate or government organisations do not protect consumer privacy, client confidentiality and political privacy the execution of identity theft becomes much easier for criminals.[2]" in the introduction to be a little, i don't know, not-encyclopedic, in that it voices an opinion on what governments should do, or a belief that that is the only solution to the problem. beyondkaoru 20:50, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
You may be new to wikipedia, but your instincts are right on target. Rklawton 22:11, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
The article gives the "mainstream view" of the subject, while ignoring an abvious alternative!
The incorrect premise of "identity theft", is in the idea that "something" has been stolen from the consumer.
This idea is welcomed by the financial institutions, as it helps them to transfer their losses to the consumers (as it is "something" of consumer's that has been stolen). This idea is also welcomed by the governments. Certainly by the UK government, as it adds to their pro-ID card arguments.
However, this idea is a fallacy. Nothing (usually) gets stolen from the consumer. Instead, it is the banks, that have been "swindled". It is their loss, as they have given their money away, and they don't know whom to. As for credit agencies, if they will incorrectly report "consumer's" status (as a result of the so called "identity theft"), they should be considered at fault, and pay any and all (including consequential) damages that a consumer may have suffered as a result of their fault. --Arek Wnukowski 00:07, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

'== calm down people its just a term you all know what it means. =='''Italic text —Preceding unsigned comment added by 209.7.46.121 (talk) 13:30, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

Major Rewrite[edit]

Since I was on a roll, I decided to do a rewrite. I've tried to source more information and I have removed everything that was argumentative, speculative or unverified. I've also done some copy-editing and added some more country specific information. It would be good if someone could proof it for me and correct any mistakes. --Nickj69 13:37, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Not a bad rewrite; it certainly needed it in parts. However, I notice that some useful content has been removed, particularly in relation to the reasons behind identity theft, and how to protect against it. I think we should retain reference to one of the major reasons - too many organisations holding too much personal information in an insecure manner. Witness the recent theft of personal data from HSBC in India. Examples related to this are where commercial organisations require copies of passports and the like, and the insatiable desire of most companies to collect irrelevant personal information. Ways to protect yourself - don't provide the information to these companies. This obvious point should be included. Arcturus 18:54, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Whole-heartedly agree. But, I wasn't able to find a decent ref to cover it. Perhaps you could add something with a reference to the news item you mention? --Nickj69 11:12, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm new to this but a Wikipedia editor (or whatever they're called--the volunteers toward the top of the pecking order) suggested the site could use some help in law enforcement areas. I note that the entry on identity theft (which is my area of specialization--has been for the last 7 years) doesn't have anything on what to do if you discover you're a victim. Should it, or is that beyond the scope of what Wikipedia does? I could put something together, or I could post the handout my department gives to victims who report the crimes. [User:dhs14] 23:41, 21 November 2006 (PDST)

I'd suggest that it should include something generic, but not try and take the place of websites or government organisations doing the job. Feel free to jump in an add something but take time to read what's been written here so you understand what's gone before. Happy editing. --Nickj69 09:16, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
I'd suggest point readers to sources of information on how to protect one-self from identity theft. Evidently this kind of information has already been removed from Wikipedia, as discussed in a section below, so simply directing people to other sources seems like a good alternative. --97.90.125.162 (talk) 02:23, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Reverted banned users edits[edit]

Reverted banned users edits. Please add back high quality edits under your own user name. Thanks, --FloNight talk 20:27, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Should this article be semi-protected?[edit]

I've noticed that this article has been edited numerous times by anonymous IP editors, and reverted pretty much every time. While not clearly falling under the 3RR, it does seem like a good candidate for semi-protection, so that people who want to add their links will at least have a few days to become familiar with the Wikipedia Community standards first, to know that spam links are inappropriate, etc. Dansiman 22:32, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

It's vandalized no more than some of the popular articles school children find attractive. I think temporarily blocking offending IP addresses should prove sufficient warning. These same IP addresses tend to SPAM more than this one article. Rklawton 01:24, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

World Phenomenon[edit]

I wonder if those contributors who haven't yet realised that there is an entire world outside the borders of the USA could perhaps get a lesson in Geography. Here's a classic example from the first part of the article - using another arguably illegal reason to victimize individuals who display their personal information in good faith, such as landlord-related fraud, where the Patriot Act is used to create suspicion on prospective tenants, and then using their personal information to commit fraud. this is a very common practice among slumlords, who violate Civil Rights and use the right to request background checks to defend their legal policies, which are later used to commit crimes; the laws themselves create this conflict and is a type of identity theft created and enforced by Federal law Arcturus 16:21, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

I really don't think it's a matter of geography ignorance. It's Wikipedia ignorance. The English language Wikipedia is rife with statements that are correct only in the context of the USA, but it's not because the authors don't realize there are other English-speaking countries or even that laws are different between countries. It's that they assume, unwittingly, that Wikipedia is a US thing. Most of the websites they use are in fact specific to the US, as are most of the things they read and conversations they have in the course of a day. I like to criticize these people for being narrow-minded (and likewise people who assume all computers run Windows or all people drive to work), but then I remind myself that focussing on a person's immediate context is a fundamental part of how the human brain works. You should treat these US-centric writings like typos. It's not stupidity; it's just a mistake.
Incidentally, I have found many UK-centric statements in Wikipedia.
Bryan Henderson 18:08, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
My ID was stollen by someone who had access to my mailbox because the apartment officials failed to change mailroom locks between tenants.. The Police department in my Area (west Houston) is rife with ID theft cases, and are lazy to pursue anything because the convicts are skillful at eliminating any leads. Take into account this is where some portion of the population of New Orleans fled to post Katrina, I'm sorry I ever came here, from Los Alamos, New Mexico. Call me racist, but there is 90% chance the person who stole my identity was black. And given NO,LA history, the miscreant likely came from there. But there are a lot of people here from overseas, lots of Nigerians, and we all are familiar with Nigerian scam letters.. They are here, using our system to make money off our ignorance, black or white.. 108.201.173.189 (talk) 21:32, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

Incorrectly Labeled World Phenomenon Generating Confusion[edit]

Nickj69, Amplmado Acturus, RKlawton. Bryan – Your struggle in associating criminal activity with the term "identity theft" is not unsual. You are not alone. Most thinking deeply about the issue and criminal fraud investigators with even a modicum of experience struggle with the term alongside you.

We struggle because the term “identity theft” is truly a misnomer. It is an ill-conceived, albeit popular, phrase that has become entrenched in North American - much to the chagrin of Europeans. Rhetoric on the plethora of North American web sites and in the media tends to focus on a single segment of the much broader issue of all "identification-based crime". I carefully choose the term “identification-based”, because the actual crime drawing attention more often than not is a criminal activity that happens to involve the misappropriated use of someone else's personal identification particulars. The crimes range from dead-beat dads avoiding their financial obligations, to stock market manipulation, money laudering and terrorism - to mention a few.

The actual offence for using someone’s personal identification particulars for an illegal purpose in America may be found in the U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 43, False Personation. The Canadian equilant is Personation, Sec. 403 of the Criminal Code of Canada. In all likelihood the Europeans have a similar offence.

I found a particularly enlightening paper prepared for U.K. Cabinet Office [July 2002], "Identity Fraud: A Study" [www.identitycards.gov.uk/downloads/id_fraud-report.pdf.]. The article asserts that the term "identity” triggers discussion at the philosophical and psychological levels.

This U.K. paper lists three basic elements to a human "identity": biometrics, biographical information and legal attribution [kindly note my contribution to the original U.K. terminology]. This distinction becomes important to problem solvers - in particular those in law and regulatory enforcement intent on identifying the root causes of crimes. At the least the appropriate term may be "identification" - as in "identification documents" and not identity documents.

Using the term “theft” may equally present its unqiue set of problems. It implies the unauthorized deprivation of use of one's property - or something to that effect. It will take a better legal mind than mine to debate that personal identification particulars are property under the definitions afforded it in common-law penal codes. Perhaps this is why the drafters of the Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act [2003] proposed amendments to Title 18, Part I, Chapter 27, s.1028 of the U.S. Code, which concerns “Fraud and False Statements.”

“Embezzlement and Theft” are addressed in Chapter 31.

As best as I can determine, the terminology emerged somewhere in the mid 1990s in reaction to consumer complaints lodged with the Federal Trade Commission about the use of their personal identification particulars to obtain cash and/or merchandize. This crime is dependent upon linking personal identification particulars and social security number with a credit history in good standing maintained by credit-rating services. My personal choice of terms would be to refer to this particular phenomenon as a “credit-dependent” financial crime.

How credit card and debit card fraud got into the “identity-theft” mix is beyond me. Credit and debit cards aren’t classified as identification documents. They are defined in the U.S. Code as access devices [Title 18, Part I, Chapter 47, s. 1029]. Credit cards have their own offence sections in Canadian law as well. I don't know about England or Continental Europe.

None-the-less I don’t think the term can be altered in North America, at least not in the short run. Perhaps Wikipedia is a perfect venue to leave the caption in tact, because at least that's what most North American's would search under, and then to clarify what using the term represents in law.

Graeme R. Newman attempts to address this challenge in his “Identity Theft” guide for The Center on Problem-oriented Policing [www.popcenter.org/Problems/problem-identity_theft.htm]. He distinguished financial crimes from concealment crimes, perhaps in a struggle to squeeze the broader base of identification-based crimes into the “identity-theft” terminology.

Particularly noteworthy as well is Mr. Newman’s distinction in describing prevention strategies between “personal guardianship” and “agency guardianship”. If the Wikipedia site is to describe what consumers need to do to protect their personal information, perhaps it should also discuss the "agency guardianship" commitments required by governments and corporations, which house large volumes of personal information. The Privacy Rights Clearing House listing of reported exposures of data in America is staggering.

My first instinct was to edit the Wikipedia site on “identity theft”. I have noted and honour the concern about the number of edits already undertaken. Thought perhaps it best to consult all before moving forward. [alternation_jrl] 24.226.90.12 00:12, 1 November 2006 (UTC)


The 2002 UK Cabinet paper is a very good start. However, the concept of identity and it elements from the point of view of stealing it need a bit more thought, which seems to be occurring in some jurisdictions. These elements are: - Foundation - the documented existence of an identity, such as a birth or naturalisation certificate. Obviously documents that change identity, such as a marriage certificate or deed poll, also come into play. Added complications are transliteration and or translation of names between scripts and languages, and the issue of cultures where it is possible for a person to have several legitimate names derived from accepted custom and practice. A problem with foundation identities is that if the holder dies in another jurisdiction information about this event may not be available to cancel the identity elsewhere (similarly if the subject has changed jurisditions). - Physical characteristics, biometrics, no need to say more. - Activity in the community, now being called 'social footprint' in some circles. This establishes that the identity is active, ideally since the claimed birth! The theory is that it is difficult to create a false social footprint with any depth. This footprint may be documented by allocated identifiers such as address, User Id, membership number, student number, - a potentially infinite list - that can be linked to a foundation identity and in some cases to a biometric. Its the summ of all these parts that actually gives a 'real' identity.

Fraudulent identities can take three forms: · False identity, the identity is fictitious. · Stolen identity, there is such a person who becomes a victim and may suffer tangible and intangible losses from the use of their stolen identity. However, the legitimate owner of the identity may be dead. · Borrowed identity, the lender doing so voluntarily (eg a relative) or involuntarily (eg a coerced person). The identity owner may not report its misuse and may protect the borrower. 24.226.90.12 14:38, 11 March 2007 (UTC)alternation_jrl

Nfe 03:39, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Jump in! All of your observations seem to be on the money and you have verifiable references. Try and keep it concise, cite your sources and be ready for some (positive!) feedback from other editors. --Nickj69 09:25, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Would it not be right to remove the tag from the header of this article that states the article does not have a worldwide view. The article now has content from, and discussions on, many regions including USA, Asia and Europe?Mike (talk) 16:54, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

How-to Alert[edit]

Between advice on how to avoid and how to response to ID theft, this article is in danger of violating Wikipedia is not an instruction manual. A lot of this may need to go. Robert A.West (Talk) 14:59, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Well let's amend the policy then. After all, at Wikipedia we can "be bold", can't we? I don't have a problem with the sections mentioned and would suggest they stay. However, after bleating on about this article being too US-centric, I now see someone has made parts of it too UK-centric. We shouldn't really have references to websites, telephone numbers and the like that assume only people from the country in question are reading the article. Also "If you've been a victim of Identity Theft" - no, it's the financial institutions that are the victims. We need to re-phrase this. Incidentally, in a funny sort of way it pleases me no end that financial institutions are the victims, because they are the ultimate cause of it. Arcturus 22:40, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

I have deleted the two sections telling people how to protect their identity and what to do if it is stolen. As said before, Wikipedia is not an instruction manual. From that section we are told Wikipedia articles should not include instructions or advice (legal, medical, or otherwise), suggestions, or contain "how-to"s. These two sections onlky purpose is to give people advice and instruction. 141.211.175.235 15:12, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

Keep on it. I see no reason to make an exception to policy just for this article. Rklawton 20:56, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Whoa. I was about to add a comment about how the section "Techniques for obtaining and exploiting personal information for identity theft" is practically giving people ideas for how to commit identity theft, but here it's revealed that "how-to" sections for avoiding identity theft have been deleted while the information for where people find information to commit identity theft is left in. How does this double standard work? --97.90.125.162 (talk) 02:23, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Instructional Manual Comment[edit]

I think the challenge we face is writing a feature on something that doesn't exist - "identity theft". As best as I can determine the term came to life when privacy rights advocates expressed concern on behalf of consumers about credit-dependent crime. The Federal Trade Commission picked up on it, started to use it, and now it has become common parlance. We can't change the word. The danger is that people thinking theft may not consider fraud interventions in reducing the opportunity to commit identification fraud. I removed references to credit-rating services in recognizing that orginal research breaks the Wikipedia rules. Bruce Schneier writes a lot about the dangers in the centralization of information. Security may be good, but it is never perfect. When there is a security breach it is huge, sometimes tens of thousands of sets of personal identifiers. I too would like to see the "how to sections" removed from the Wikipedia site. People can get this from the FTC or any number of other sources.

--76.244.68.147 (talk) 22:39, 31 July 2011 (UTC)== How to write the term Identity Theft == I was wondering whether the term 'Identity Theft' should appear with both I of Identity and T of Theft as capitals or in small letters. On Wikipedia pages it is a combinatin of both. Some times it appears as small and on other times as capitals. I believe we need to be consistent. Can someone please clarify how we shall use it.AmirHayat 11:07, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

To Capitalize or not to capitalize[edit]

Would it make more sense: a) to put the term in italics - which would be very repetitive, or b) simply capitalize the term and to state that it is a proper name given to a particular genre of identification-based crime? We capitalize given names, surnames, city names etc? What do English majors think?

I would not want to be a police officer or some other person in authority testifying in a court of law that I arrested a suspect for "identity theft". That could get a little uncomfortable in cross examination with astute legal representation.

None-the-less the term has become the stuff of pop culture. It is here to stay. We can't negate the importance of consumers becoming more aware about abuses of their personal information and the exploitation of their credit-worthiness. On the other hand, problem-solvers [e.g. www.popcenter.org] recognize that the term is misleading. In considering how to identify and address the root causes off all crime that incluces a forged means of identification, there is insufficient research to determine which is the higher risk exposure - personal guardianship or agency guardianship [see Privacy Rights Clearing House: A Chronology of Data Breaches]. The problem with concealment crime is that it is very difficult to measure, where with credit-dependent crime we know within a few months and the statistics are centrally gathered.

Therefore, should our efforts in Wikipedia on this topic expressly limit the use of the term to describe a topic that exploits the credit-worthiness of consumers to commit fraud? Consumers, privacy rights advocates and the press are locked onto the term. It cannot be changed. 24.226.90.12 14:33, 11 March 2007 (UTC)alternation_jrl


Weren't there some old Citibank commercials regarding identity theft? I think there were some funny ones with weird voice-overs...

Can't say I've seen them - were they on Channel 4 or ITV? 86.31.72.30 16:27, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Rename this article[edit]

This article is one of the worst examples in Wikipedia of US-centrism. Most of the article is really from a US perspective and the whole thing should be renamed Identity theft (USA). Then a new article called Identity theft could be created which would give a world view on the subject. As it stands this article is of limited use to anyone outside the US. 86.31.78.1 16:21, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

I like it when they put the chickens in the donkey coup —Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.130.66.109 (talk) 20:08, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Adding a link[edit]

I work for the America's Most Wanted Safety Center, a new branch of America's Most Wanted getting away from the capturing of criminals, and branching out to all aspects of safety. I feel a link to our post about identity theft would be appropriate and mutually beneficial, being that America's Most Wanted has already educated millions of Americans about it on television. The link is http://www.amw.com/safety/?p=144 please consider it. Jrosenfe 14:10, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

How was this term promoted?[edit]

I'd be interested to see discussion here of how it is that "bank fraud" was transmuted into "identity theft", with the underlying assumption that if a bank halfway across the country hands a criminal money based on a social security number and a birthdate, that it's somehow the fault of the person mimicked rather than the gullible banker. This seems an exceptionally striking example of the re-engineering of public perceptions to turn the problems of the wealthy into the responsibility of the poor. 70.15.116.59 (talk) 18:53, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Edited Individual identity protection[edit]

I edited this section because I thought it did not reflect how hard protecting personal data can be. The original wording sounded a little like "she shouldn't have worn that short skirt" to me, but I am an ID theft victim myself so if I'm too biased please feel free to fix it.

My personal feeling is that ID Theft is what used to be just called fraud, but the information age and the rise of information brokers and large government databases have tended to throw the consequences of the fraud onto the person being impersonated. I'd like to see some addition to address this, if I can find a good reference. Also, there is not much mention in here of the role of fake or illegally obtained IDs . —Preceding unsigned comment added by Afpre (talkcontribs) 14:37, 18 January 2008 (UTC)

Credit card fraud[edit]

Second sentence of article "The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud.". No. Credit card fraud is FRAUD, straight and simple. It's NOT identity theft. This is the type of statement used by governments to over-inflate the occurrence of identity theft. I suggest we remove this sentence. 86.27.59.185 (talk) 11:08, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

I think there's some ambiguity about what constitutes Identity theft. I'd agree that making unauthorized charges to someone else's credit card s better described as credit card fraud rather than identity theft, however actually opening a new credit account would probably qualify. The "spread and impact" section states "Confusion over exactly what constitutes identity theft has led to claims that statistics may be exaggerated.", and the first sentence in the article describes it as a "catch all phrase". Perhaps the statement in the first paragraph about credit card fraud could be removed and instead include a more detailed discussion about this ambiguity and the different definitions of the term (particularly point out that there is a distinction between the popular definition and the legal definition?). I'm not sure what the govt's motives for inflating the numbers would be, in the US it is very hard to get authorities to press ID theft charges--Afpre (talk) 13:24, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

This is true - credit card fraud is not generally considered identity theft. As the previous post states, it's only IDT if a person's personal information is used to open an account fraudulently - or if a person's personal info is used to access an already open account (see account takeover under credit card fraud). That second sentence should be removed. The rest of the introduction functions just as well without it. (And in my opinion, the government doesn't inflate the numbers as much as the media does. They take gov't stats and exaggerate them to make ID theft more threatening and newsworthy...just my opinion, remember.) Stickfigureparade (talk) 05:58, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

This is an interesting debate and one that is ongoing in a number of circles. The thought used to be that using another person's credit card to charge goods and services without their permission was called account takeover and not identity theft. But the Federal Trade Commission started becoming the de facto authority on ID theft through its annual reports on the crime. As a result, under ID theft you now have "credit card fraud" as a component. And that is broken down into "existing accounts" (account takeover)and "new accounts". The definitive nature of identity theft has always been a problem. But it now seems like that horse is out of the proverbial barn.([User:vaheterdu]) 29 May 2009

Adding another link[edit]

I think a link to the foollowing site is potentially worth doing as it is an assistance to anyone who is worried about Identity Theft and would like to know how to protect themselves in their day to day lives. http://identity-theft.weebly.com Scaifea (talk) 16:54, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

The editor above placed links to a number of totally unrelated subject to various pages on this weebly.com, a very spammy way to go about it. I've reverted all the links as spam. If any of the regulars here think that this link is non-spammy and contributes to the page, great, but for now they are on my spam-radar. - TexasAndroid (talk) 17:02, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the opportunity TexasAndroid - I have recently been developing a number of information/education sites, hence the reason why I was here linking to the various sites. I apologise if my actions seemed 'spammy' that wasn't my intention, my intention was to add genuinely new and different sources of information to a number of topics. In future I will discuss the addition of any links.Scaifea (talk) 09:41, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

Added to Individual identity protection[edit]

I added a short paragraph about identity theft protection services in the U.S. These services have received a lot of attention and I believe some information about them is appropriate and would be welcomed by readers. Let me know if you think otherwise, though... --Wpbl (talk) 20:52, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

more links?[edit]

I made a quick edit to the bulleted list of how data is obtained since there was one entry that did not fit the format, read rather strangely, and didn't get the point across. I hope that my addition improves this. I also added a line regarding the California and Wisconsin Offices of Privacy protection, as these seem to be very good resources for the residents of those states. I added the links as references since they are state-specific, but they could be links too if others think they'd be valuable. Jlygrnmigt (talk) 15:43, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Identity fraud to be created[edit]

Right now, identity fraud redirects to this page. Fraud and thieft are different concepts that would be worth to separate. A definition: Identity fraud is a synonym of unlawful identity change. It indicates unlawful activities that use the identity of another person or of a non-existing person as a target or principal tool. A reference to be added: http://www.business.mcmaster.ca/IDTDefinition/defining/idfraudTCF.htm If there is not objection, I will make the change soon. --Nabeth (talk) 00:13, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Well, not so easy to sepate the fraud and Theft. (http://www.business.mcmaster.ca/IDTDefinition/defining/idfraudTCF.htm makes a distinction). Fraud appears to be more related to usage of a false identity.--Nabeth (talk) 18:26, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
The OED (online; checked today) makes no distinction. It has an entry draft for "identity theft": "the dishonest acquisition of personal information in order to perpetrate fraud, typically by obtaining credit, loans, etc., in someone else's name; fraud perpetrated in this way; (also) an instance of this." and it has no entry for "identity fraud". It doesn't deserve its own article (unlike Wireless ~); a section in this one is more than adequate, and sentences 2, 5 & 6 can be moved there. The issue of whether credit card fraud is generally considered identity theft is more important. Created: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Identity_fraud --Elvey (talk) 23:22, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
Well, this is something unclear about the decision of deleting this post. I will not talk about the content (the value of keeping this page) for which I disagree, but about the process this propose for deletion was done. The discussion seems already taken, and I didn't have the time to comment. Besides, nothing was done in the discussion page of the page Identity fraud. What is happening? Can someone look at this and check if there is some abuse here? Thanks --Nabeth (talk) 08:25, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
I am very confused. What has exactly happened with this AfD. It seem to indicate keep? Can an administrator look at this if this is not some form of vandalism or abuse (about the way the process was done)? Thanks. --Nabeth (talk) 08:31, 23 October 2009 (UTC)
Ok. If I understand, the result, the result was a speedy close, since the request for AfD was not considered as valid. Hopefully the "message" article for deletion will disappear soon (Note: and real discussion on the subject or keeping / modifying this article, may be done on the discussion page of this article). --Nabeth (talk) 08:54, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Proposal to merge this article with Wireless identity theft[edit]

As referenced by the Wireless identity theft article tag: "It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Identity theft. (Discuss)"

Oppose: due to the amount of detail in both topics, it would be counterproductive to the parent article (this one) to merge the two. --HarryZilber (talk) 15:09, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

Oppose: Although "Wireless identity theft" deserves a summary paragraph in the "Identity theft" article, there are several distinct kinds of identity theft that should not all be merged into one bloated article. Greensburger (talk) 19:43, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

Section 'Cultural references' removed (with obscurity trim)[edit]

Sorry, I do not understand why the section 'Cultural references' was removed with the message 'obscurity trim'. For me it does not look obscure at all, and besides I find the content useful (anchor 'Identity theft' to ciméma and literrature).

Having say that, there may be some very legitimate reasons (not enough notability?) to remove this part.

Note: I have never contributed in this section, and therefore I believe I am neutral on this.

Best regards --Nabeth (talk) 14:58, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Famous Victims[edit]

Should be nixed, IMO. With 2% of the public having their ID stolen, this would be an unmanageably huge list. If the info is interesting, it should be worked in elsewhere. I feel the info has no value, so even that isn't needed. --Psrq (talk) 20:34, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Blanking some section without explanation[edit]

This article needs to be recycled, and I do not mind personally that some content is removed. However if it is done, in particular from an anonymous user, it could be good to have an explanation, so as to really know if this is not vandalism. Please, if you do it, do not be afraid (from me) to changes things, but in the case you do it (even as an anonymous account), can you please provide an explanation? Thanks.

--Nabeth (talk) 16:19, 29 September 2009 (UTC)

Here is some content that had replaced the previous content:


According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center[1] and other sources, others for non-financial reasons - for instance, to receive praise or attention for the victim's achievements. This is sometimes referred to as identity theft in the media.[2]


Maybe this was some useful content (under == Types ==) but I have difficulty to determine if this originates from Identity Theft Resource Center. Please put it back if it make sense to you.

--Nabeth (talk) 16:28, 29 September 2009 (UTC)

Preventions of Identity theft[edit]

As we all know Id theft is the most common crime that is happening in the United States. Thieves can steal your personal info in many ways. For example hacking into your computer, sending phishing emails, digging into your trash etc. A phishing email is an email that is sent by a third party pretending to be your bank, phone company, etc asking you to provide personal info. DONT RESPOND BACK! Companies dont ask customers to give out their personal info by email. Also like I say that thieves look into your trash and hack your computers to get personal info. Thats why if you are throwing away things that contain personal info make sure you shred those things first. Also if you have a computer at home make sure your computer has a firewall anti spyware and an antivirus on and up to date to make sure that it gets very difficult for anyone to steal your personal info. Now also if you are for example going online to your banks website when your press enter make sure it starts with https:// and make sure that there is a little lock on the bottom of the screen and when you click on it make sure that it says 128bit. This means that the page is secured. Also thieves are using the telephone to get your personal info so watch out! Dont give out any personal info unless you initiated the contact. Plus Monitor your bank accounts everyday for any fraudlent activity. When you get your statements also look for any charges that you did not make because even a charge to your credit or checking account is a sign of identity theft. Get a free copy of your credit reports every year from equifax experian and transunion. Also you might want to subscribe to an identity theft protection service. Eliminate paper bills because they can get lost or stolen by thieves and view your bills online instead. Take action immediately if your bills don't arrive on time! A missing bill can mean that someone changed your billing address to do bad things. Now when someone asks you for personal info such as your ssn ask why they need it? How are they going to safe guard it? Because you dont want that number to fall into the wrong hands. You also might want to remove your phone number from the directory because in the telephone directory it shows your names address and phone number so call your phone company and ask them to take your name off the directory and from the 411. (There is a small fee for that service). Now lets talk about what info are we carrying around never carry around your SSN and the reason why is because if your purse or wallet is lost or stolen you are giving a chance for a thief to commit id theft so that also means don't carry any debit cards or credit cards you don't use or any personal info that you are carrying around for no reason and leave it at home an a safe and secure place that means not in the living room, kitchen, or in any area where someone can access it because identity theft also happens like that for example if you are not home someone can get into your home and rob your info that also means that even people that visit you such as friends or relatives can steel your info if you leave that in an area where another person can reach it. Now Im going to talk to you about protecting your info from cashiers when giving your check, credit, or debit card while paying look it the cashier to make sure he doesn't do something that can surprise you later on. Also we got to watch out for skimming skimming is when you go to an ATM and you slide your card I think that they have a little camara or I really don't know how they get your card info but when you slide it it records your card information so definitely their is no way we can completely prevent id theft but we can take these steps to reduce our risk. I took my time to put this info here in wikipedia because Im sure that It's really going to help alot of us from being victims of id theft. Good Luck to all of you!!

Luis Moreno


The first politician to pick up on the SOLUTION is the one who will be revered as a saviour from ID theft to many[edit]

The problem with Identity theft if you read my main comment at the very top is that it doesn't even have to happen in the first place. It occurs because institutions require different signs of identity and any of those can be replicated. The solution is to give each institution a special identity that is signed (with strong encryption) and is logged at a trusted ID holder, preferably the US government. It should be as simple as logging into a site like google, obtaining a unique ID, giving the institution (needing the proof) the unique ID .. They only need to validate it against the government's database. All the institution that receives the unique and qualified ID would need to know is that this ID verifiably is referenced in the government databases and leads to picture, address, and other such information of the ID holder. In fact, you could divulge everything, even information about your facebook, and such to the public. The key to this "working" is that you have a login and password and you keep the login and password private, and who here finds that difficult? Everytime you need to get a credit card or other such service, you only need to login, obtain a specialized ID, annotate what the ID is for, and then get the unique qualified ID, and give it to the institution..

Better yet would be to make it so that every institution publishes a promotional service code, and that that can be used to register the specialized ID, so that the link between the ID and the use is stronger. The more loosely you associate ID's, the easier ID theft is.. It's like a chain, would you rather have one point of failure or multiple points of failure? 99.45.96.255 (talk) 17:50, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

nicknapping[edit]

to be understood as a suggestion: Nicknapping seems to become the term to describe identity theft to act as another person in the web (forums, social web). It seems to be worth to add the term in the article (?). focus_mankind (focus_mankind) 17:18, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

Identity Theft In The UK[edit]

I have added some information from the new CIFAS report about the mount of ID theft that occured in the UK in 2009. My grammer is not 100% great so someone might wish to check it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.26.23.81 (talk) 16:02, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

Introductory Paragraph[edit]

why is there a debate on the probability of being a victim here? this is introducing bias immediately and shouldn't be done. after the government accountability office study, the remaining needs to be moved out Yourmanstan (talk) 18:01, 8 February 2010 (UTC)

Well, the quote misrepresents the findings of the GAO study, for starters. The GAO report concluded that "Determining the link between data breaches and identity theft is challenging, primarily because identity theft victims often do not know how their personal information was obtained," I would add that where one exists, such a link is rarely detected. Only data breaches resulting in successful investigations can uncover such a link, and such successes are the rare exception. --Elvey (talk) 20:19, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

We have pretty much no idea what fraction of ID theft is the result of company security breaches[edit]

The article implied that identity fraud is rarely the result of data breaches; I've modified it to remove this invalid implication.

The http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/research/241full.pdf paper has some major errors; As noted, it is unpublished. IMO, this is for good reason. • Aside from a slew of basic grammatical errors, it fails to consider that • a great many breaches go unreported, or that • breach notification laws lead to the discovery of breaches. • It confabulates the percentage of ID theft connected with a reported breach with the percentage of ID theft that resulted from a breach. This confabulation, IMO, results in unwarranted conclusions. • A consumer is far more likely to be able to connect an incident of ID theft to their stolen wallet than to a breach that remained undetected or unreported. A consumer cannot connect an incident of ID theft to a breach that is undetected or unreported. • Its main conclusion is unwarranted because it is reached through a 'Comparison of reported identity theft rates by states with and without law' that does not consider:

  1. that national firms that notify customers because of such laws generally notify all the affected customers, not just those in states with such laws or
  2. that national firms that improve security because of such laws generally do so in general, e.g. at their main offices, not just those in states with such laws. --Elvey (talk) 20:19, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Popular culture section...[edit]

...is full of trivial references to "identity theft". Now, I can see the notability of Michelle Brown's story: true story, high profile, made into a film. Also, Catch Me If You Can is the same. However, this article does not need to list all the times fiction has depicted identity theft; I don't see anything particularly notable or helpful to the reader informing them that Family Guy joked about identity theft. —Onore Baka Sama(speak | stalk) 17:47, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Do you mean the section titled Cultural references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_theft#Cultural_references Ottawahitech (talk) 04:28, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

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  1. ^ Identity Theft Resource Center website
  2. ^ Former Major League Baseball player Reno Stephens was impersonated for over twenty years by an individual born with the same name. There is no evidence that the impersonator gained financially from the impersonation, but he did receive significant local attention.