Define Identity Theft - Don't Let It Happen To You!

How do you define Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone steals your identity using your Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal information.  They use this information to indirectly steal money from you, or to apply for new accounts in your name, which you end up having to pay when they ultimately don't pay.  Identity theft facts say that this is the fastest growing form of financial fraud affecting millions of everyday people like you and I.  Basically, it involves someone impersonating you, typicallyIdentity Theft In America followed by fast spending.

How is this related to prepaid wireless?

You might be asking yourself: "Why define identity theft on a website about prepaid wireless?!"  Along with not having to lock into a long term contract, and a myriad of other benefits of prepaid wireless (read more at Why Prepaid Wireless), no contract plans do not require you to provide personal information.  While prepaid carriers typically ask you for your name and address, you don't necessarily have to provide your real name, and you most certainly never have to provide your driver's license or social security number unless you're Financing or Leasing a phone.

The only exception tends to be if you're trying to setup payments using a bank account or credit/debit card on your wireless account; then they'll need to valid certain personal information.  But the extend of that tends to be the last four digits of your SSN, and they're doing that only to validate that you are who you say you are.  In other words, they're not collecting or storing it for reporting to the credit bureaus (which prepaid wireless carriers don't do!).

The point is that prepaid wireless plans provide an excellent option for people who are concerned about identity theft fraud.  It's one less account with personal information on it!  Regardless, you should understand Identity Theft, and take measures to protect yourself whether or not you use a prepaid or contract phone.

How does Identity Theft work?

The perpetrator will collect personal information about you; they can do it in a number of ways, including:
  • Stealing your SSN by calling you and pretending to be from your bank, credit card company, or some other official sounding organization, and requesting to "verify" your information for some seemingly valid reason.
  • Rummaging through your garbage for personal documents and statements.  Believe it or not, people actually do this!
  • Hacking into, or otherwise gaining access to your online accounts.
  • Stealing your driver's license, personal checks, credit cards, ATM cards (i.e. debit cards), passport, etc.

What are the impacts of Identity Theft in America?

Being a victim of identity theft not only hurts your reputation, but has a long lasting impact on your credit score, which affects your ability to get a home loan, get approved for a good rate on a car loan, apply for credit cards, and even getting different forms of insurance.  Also, not only do you spend a lot of time resolving problems when you learn that your identity has been stolen, but there are also out-of-pocket costs for filling claims, lawyers fees, etc.  Also note that a low credit score can even affect your ability to get a job, as many employers actually check your credit score as part of a background check!  Believe it or not, companies view your credit score as a reflection of your personal responsibility, and general integrity.

You can define identity theft in different ways.  According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, Javelin Strategy & Research, the average number of victims annually was over 12 million, representing 7.5% of households.  The average financial loss per identity theft incident was over $5,000, with the total financial loss in 2014 being over $26 billion dollars.  The main point here is that identity theft is a serious problem and a big pain, both financially and in terms of personal time.

Define Identity Theft

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