Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of an individual's personal information—such as his or her name; Social Security number (SSN); address; and date of birth—in order to impersonate him or her. This information enables an identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud, including opening new bank accounts; taking over the victim's financial accounts; purchasing automobiles; applying for loans, credit cards, and Social Security benefits; renting apartments; and establishing services with utility and telephone companies. A thief can obtain all of this information online, over the telephone, or in person.

Identity theft was declared a federal crime in 1998 with the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (http://www.ftc.gov/os/
). Identity theft fraud cases are investigated by federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI; http://www.fbi.gov), the U.S. Secret Service (http://www.secretservice.gov/), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS; http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/).


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