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

Zhu and Zhang have also been charged with wire fraud and identity theft. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Chinese hackers charged with stealing data from NASA, IBM, and others," 20 Dec. 2018 Credit experts often recommend a credit freeze, also called a security freeze, as a way to protect personal information from credit fraud and identity theft. Ann Carrns, New York Times, "New Law Will Let Consumers ‘Freeze’ Credit Files Without Charge," 1 June 2018 McDaniel, then known as Tosha McDougal, served about 20 months in state prison after being convicted in 2006 in Cabarrus County on charges of obtaining property under false pretenses and identity theft. Michael Gordon, charlotteobserver, "She has filed more than 160 lawsuits; now a judge has stepped in to stop her | Charlotte Observer," 25 May 2018 Moreover, a lawsuit could be filed as much as four years after a breach, giving consumers ample time to determine if the incident resulted in fraud, identity theft or damage to one's credit score. David Lazarus,, "Businesses really, really don't like this privacy bill, which is why you should," 22 May 2018 Court records show Blakes pleaded guilty to committing forgery and identity theft in 2013. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Woman arrested, second sought in deadly robbery at south Phoenix home," 8 May 2018 Legal analysis Thirteen Russian nationals were indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday, charged with conspiracy, fraud, identity theft and other crimes in connection with their alleged activity and involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign. Danny Cevallos, NBC News, "The charges Mueller could have brought against the Russians but didn’t," 17 Feb. 2018 The defendants are charged with wire fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, among other offenses. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Eight people charged with running a multimillion-dollar online ad scam," 27 Nov. 2018 Sharif Karie, 40, of Olathe and Sheri Beamon, 47, of Kansas City were indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiracy, theft of public money, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. Tony Rizzo, kansascity, "KC day care operators scammed more than $500,000 from the government, feds allege," 28 June 2018

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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Statistics for identity theft

Last Updated

6 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for identity theft

The first known use of identity theft was in 1964

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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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