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What is identity theft?

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is any kind of fraud that results in the loss of personal data, such as passwords, user names, banking information, or credit card numbers.

Online identity theft is sometimes also known as phishing.

Identity theft isn't new. Thieves have always found ways to illegally acquire people's personal information through confidence scams (also known as social engineering), stealing mail from mailboxes, or even looking through trash cans or dumpsters. Now that identity theft has moved online criminals can scam greater numbers of people, which makes it much more profitable.

For information on how to avoid online identity theft, see Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.