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 Officer Baylis gathered the necessary information, provided an identity theft information pamphlet for the Victim, and completed this report. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 3 Feb. 2020 The identity theft victim told investigators Roeglin used to prepare his tax returns and had used his Social Security number and his father's last name to create the fake Miller employee. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Payroll executive charged with embezzling more than $476,000 from Glendale firm," 13 Jan. 2020 Barrett ordered a presentencing investigation into Rini’s background, but both sides agreed that the federal identity theft statute requires a two-year sentence and that Rini will remain jailed without bond during the official sentencing. Washington Post, "Man who claimed to be missing boy gets 2 years in prison," 8 Jan. 2020 The caller told the woman there was an identity theft issue regarding her Social Security number and the caller asked the woman to provide her Social Security number over the phone. Pioneer Press Staff,, "Niles police: Woman charged with heroin possession, companion given drug to reverse overdose," 2 Dec. 2019 Individuals whose Social Security number was impacted also received an offer of complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services., "Community News For The Wethersfield Edition," 14 Nov. 2019 But she is charged in both conspiracy counts, all five health care fraud counts and all three aggravated identity theft counts. Guillermo Contreras,, "South Texas doctor charged with wrongly prescribing drugs that killed two patients," 28 Oct. 2019 Police advised both on precautions to take against possibly identity theft. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, "Lovers quarrel over house of baseball cards: Orange Police Blotter," 3 Jan. 2020 Hayes is facing at least 12 charges, including theft, identity theft and access device fraud, court records showed. NBC News, "Fake travel agent scammed people out of $400K for 'tickets to nowhere,' authorities say," 11 Dec. 2019

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

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The first known use of identity theft was in 1964

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Statistics for identity theft

Last Updated

10 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Identity theft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 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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