Identity theft

Identity theft often occurs through the thief obtaining an identity document in the victim’s name. To do this, all document fraud techniques are used.The thief then uses this document to perform one or more transactions, simulating the victim’s identity.

For example, the thief may:

  • Open a bank account and take out credit which the thief will not have to repay
  • Open phone accounts and never pay for use
  • Withdraw money from the victim’s bank account
  • Claim title to the same degrees and qualifications as the victim
  • Marry someone, have children without taking on the responsibility
  • Claim allowances in place of the real beneficiary (retirement, welfare assistance, etc.)
  • Drive with a registration for a vehicle of the same type and not pay fines for breaking driving laws
  • Conceal criminal responsibility
  • Not take on activities of everyday life, shirking responsibilities
  • And more

Financial cost of identity theft

Experts disagree when evaluating the exact cost of fraud by identity theft. Nevertheless, the cost worldwide reaches tens of billions of dollars per year. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, identity theft affected 17.6 million people in the country in 2014, for an overall cost of $15.4 million (Victims of Identity Theft, 2014). Australia and the United Kingdom have reported estimated costs around $1-2 million per year.

Human cost of identity theft

The human cost for victims of identity theft can be enormous. In a well-known case, Michelle Brown, a victim of identity theft, testified before the U.S. Senate: “For a year and a half, from January 1998 to July 1999, someone passed herself off as me and received over $50,000 in goods and services. Not only did she damage my credit, she also used my identity to cover her drug trafficking activity. She was pursued, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned at the Chicago Federal Prison under my identity.” (Verbal Testimony by Michelle Brown)