identity theft


Definition of identity theft

: the illegal use of someone else's personal information (such as a Social Security number) especially in order to obtain money or credit

Examples of identity theft in a Sentence

How can we protect ourselves against identity theft?
Recent Examples on the Web For example, the IRS has had to consider the possibility of identity theft. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "IRS issues deadline for direct deposit info for stimulus," 8 May 2020 Daily was charged with two felonies: a second-degree count of theft by deception and third-degree unlawful use of a computer, in addition to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of identity theft. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "Pennsylvania man posed as Tim Lincecum, arrested in memorabilia scam that targeted Hayden Hurst," 13 Mar. 2020 However, remember that 88% of identity theft involves existing accounts. cleveland, "Woman loses Social Security card while renewing driver license, worries about identity theft: Money Matters," 2 Feb. 2020 He is charged with cyberstalking and eight counts of identity theft. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, "Illinois man charged with cyberstalking Dallas philanthropist Lyda Hill," 30 Jan. 2020 That man's report of identity theft was forwarded to Wisconsin's Department of Revenue, which investigated. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Payroll executive charged with embezzling more than $476,000 from Glendale firm," 13 Jan. 2020 Barragan is charged with three counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Guillermo Contreras,, "FBI says San Antonio-area man bilked high school students out of their senior trip money," 13 Nov. 2019 Brownlee had prior convictions on various charges, including identity theft. Washington Post, "Court will not revisit 'public charges' ruling," 26 Apr. 2020 The leader of an identity theft ring was arrested Thursday at a Northeast Portland motel — while making a fake ID, police say. oregonlive, "Identity theft ringleader arrested with fake IDs, printing equipment at NE Portland motel, police say," 24 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'identity theft.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of identity theft

1964, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for identity theft

Time Traveler

The first known use of identity theft was in 1964

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Statistics for identity theft

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Identity theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for identity theft

identity theft


Financial Definition of identity theft

What It Is

Identity theft is the crime of using another person's personal information, credit history or other identifying characteristics in order to make purchases or borrow money without that person's permission.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe is at work and happens to see some paperwork on a co-worker's desk. The paperwork is a stack of applications for credit from customers. The applications list each person's name, birth date, social security number and bank information. John Doe photocopies an application for Jane Smith. He then uses Jane's information to apply for a credit card in her name, which he then uses to buy a motorcycle and a beer stein collection.

Jane is a responsible adult and therefore checks her credit every four months (once a year for each of the three credit bureaus). She notices the "new" credit card and the massive balance for the motorcycle and beer-stein spree. She calls the credit card company to dispute the charges and files a police report. In the meantime, she is unable to qualify for a mortgage because lenders feel she is carrying too much debt (thanks to the thief), and collection agencies are calling her for credit card payments.

Why It Matters

Identity theft often involves stealing electronic data. It is very time-consuming for victims to battle and takes a long time to recover from. Often, the perpetrators are never caught, and the victims' credit scores suffer tremendously. Accordingly, smart consumers check their credit often in order to detect identity theft before it gets out of hand (or statutes of limitation occur), they avoid giving data out unnecessarily, and they are alert to changes in normal financial routines, such as bills that no longer arrive, mysterious bank charges, or communications from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.

Source: Investing Answers

identity theft


English Language Learners Definition of identity theft

: the illegal use of someone else's personal identifying information (such as a Social Security number) in order to get money or credit

identity theft

Legal Definition of identity theft

see theft

More from Merriam-Webster on identity theft

Spanish Central: Translation of identity theft Encyclopedia article about identity theft

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