Distinguishing Identity Theft from Identity Fraud

Identity Theft vs Identity Fraud

The difference between identity theft and identity fraud may seem subtle, but it’s important to understand the distinction between these two terms. While they’re often used interchangeably, they actually represent separate crimes. Generally, both terms imply stealing someone’s identity and personal information, but the nuances between them illustrate their differences.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft is traditionally defined as the misappropriation of someone’s identity. In other words, it means wrongfully gaining access to or stealing another person’s identity. The term ‘Identity’ includes an individual’s name, date of birth, address, financial information such as credit card details, Social Security number, or other details related to an individual’s identity. Typically, such information is stolen, acquired, or collected for unlawful purposes. The crime of Identity Theft is not dependent on the status of the victim, whether alive or deceased. A victim of Identity Theft could be held responsible for the crimes of the thief.

Stealing someone’s personal information without their permission creates many opportunities for the thief. With this information, they can open new accounts or commit crimes. It’s important to note that victims of Identity Theft include not only the person whose identity was wrongfully assumed but also vendors, banks, lenders, and other businesses.

What is Identity Fraud?

Identity Fraud involves using the stolen personal information from Identity Theft to deceive or defraud. In other words, the stolen information is used to commit various forms of fraud. A person’s identity and personal information are wrongfully used to gain access to resources, services, or goods. Examples include opening a bank account, obtaining credit cards, purchasing goods, applying for loans, committing crimes such as murder, theft or other serious crimes, applying for jobs, and obtaining documents such as passports or licenses. It’s crucial to recognize that stealing a person’s identity or personal information does not itself constitute the crime of Identity Fraud. Identity Fraud occurs only when the wrongdoer uses that information for illegal purposes or fraudulent activities.

While it’s natural to assume that Identity Fraud occurs as a result of Identity Theft, this isn’t always the case. Identity Fraud can be committed without Identity Theft. Defined as an unlawful identity change, Identity Fraud can also be committed by assuming the identity of a nonexistent person. In these cases, information is fabricated to set up a fake identity purely for illegal purposes. Popular examples include producing falsified IDs to obtain alcohol or cigarettes or to gain access to bars and nightclubs.

Key Takeaways

  • Identity Theft involves stealing a person’s identity or personal information.
  • Identity Fraud is committed when a person uses such personal information or assumes the stolen identity to commit unlawful activities.
  • Identity theft does not always result in Identity Fraud. The latter can be committed by assuming the identity of a person that does not exist.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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