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USA.gov defines identity theft as taking place when someone steals another’s personal details “to commit fraud.”
“The identity thief may use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services,” the website states. “These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.”
USA.gov describes multiple versions of identity theft, such as medical identity theft – when someone steals and uses a person’s health insurance information or Medicare ID; tax identity theft, which involves the theft of someone’s social security number; and even social identity theft – when someone poses as another on social media.
The Federal Trade Commission says warning signs can vary, but urges anyone who believes to be a victim to “act quickly.”
According to the FTC, anyone who suspects identity theft should:
- Alert any companies “where you know the fraud occurred”
- “Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report”
- Report the incident through the FTC’s Complaint Assistant
- Notify the local authorities
The agency also encourages those who believe they are victims to visit IdentityTheft.gov for information about reporting the crime and the next steps.