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Identity Theft

Special Feature
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Overview

Identity theft and identity fraud refer to types of crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another individual's personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

These financial and economic crimes cost American individuals and businesses billions of dollars every year, causing both financial and emotional distress. With ongoing technological breakthroughs and the globalization of commerce, today’s con artists have a new arsenal of weapons to use in defrauding consumers and stealing personal information.

Victims of fraud can experience more than severe financial consequences. They can also suffer from legal complications, damaged relationships, physical health problems, and trauma responses similar to those of victims of violent crime. Understanding the varied needs of fraud victims is an important step in improving practitioners’ responses to them.

Fraud and identity fraud can be challenging to measure due to low reporting. Victims may be embarrassed to accept their victimization, the perpetrator may be a family member, they may doubt law enforcement’s response, or they may not know where to report. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, just 7 percent of identity-theft victims reported the crime to law enforcement.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud, visit the Report Fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice website for links to online forms and phone numbers that can be used to report specific types of fraud.

To learn more about identity theft, visit the following pages for additional resources from the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources:

Date Created: August 13, 2020