Identity theft is someone taking personal information like your name, Social Security number, or financial account number and using it for an unlawful purpose. Everyday people, business owners, well-known celebrities, and children are prey to it. In California, all forms of identity theft are crimes (Penal Code section 530.5 et. seq.).
Identity thieves do many things in a victim's name. They open new credit accounts, take out auto loans, enjoy medical services (and make insurance claims), and even commit crimes and generate criminal records.
Identity Theft Impacts
Identity theft does not discriminate. There were 13.1 million U.S. adult victims in 2013, or nearly one victim every two seconds. That figure represents 5.5% of U.S. adults, including over a 1.6 million Californians. The number of victims increased from 12.6 million in 2012.
Identity theft is also expensive. The total cost of identity theft in 2013 was $18 billion, down from $21 million in 2012 . The decrease is the result of a sharp increase in the share of fraud involving existing credit/debit card accounts, which is less costly than other forms of identity theft.
Note: The statistics cited are from the Javelin Strategy & Research "2014 Identity Fraud Report," released in February 2014.