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What can identity thieves do with stolen personal information?

  • Go on a spending spree - In some cases purchases are made in a matter of hours, before you have a chance to report your credit cards as stolen. Thieves may also use your identity to purchase firearms during their spending spree.

  • Drain your checking account and savings - A thief can also use your personal data to withdraw money from your bank account, transfer your savings or steal your investments.

  • Open new accounts - Usually, this involves opening credit cards and maxing them out. In some cases, thieves have opened bank accounts, utility accounts, insurance accounts, loans, and more using stolen identities

  • Obtain government documents - An identity thief may apply for a driver's license or Social Security card using your information. They could do this just for the purpose of obtaining the document or they could use these documents for more complex fraud. For example, a thief could obtain a driver's license with your name and their photo on it and then use this identification to access your loan and bank accounts.

  • Obtain a cell phone - Cell phones service plans are expensive and require credit checks, so identity thieves will often use stolen data to obtain a cell phone.

  • Charge utilities in your name - Cable, internet, gas, phone, electricity and water utilities can all be charged by a thief using someone else's identity. Because some utility companies may request a credit check, a thief may use a stolen Social Security number for their application.

  • Rent an apartment - Landlords often review credit records before accepting applicants, identity thieves may use stolen data to cover up their own poor credit record or lack of credit history.

  • Buy a car or home - It's easier for an identity thief to use stolen data to purchase and finance a car since it requires less paperwork and review than a home purchase.

  • Apply for a job - Identity thieves with poor credit, a criminal record or illegal resident status may use a stolen identity to apply for a job that they would not be able to obtain otherwise.

  • Obtain student financial aid - In this scam, thieves pose as college students to gather federal student aid funds and grants under false pretenses. One thief stole over $300,000 dollars in student aid using 43 different identities before he was arrested for the crime.

  • Refinance your home - In extreme cases, thieves can cash out thousands of dollars from your home by refinancing with a home equity loan using your identity.

  • Obtain medical care - Medical bills can be extremely expensive, especially for people without health insurance. An identity thief may use a stolen credit card, Social Security number or identity to pay for medical treatments.

  • File fraudulent tax returns - If a thief used a stolen Social Security number to obtain a job, their wages are reported with a W-2 to the IRS. When the victim fails to include this fraudulent income on their taxes, they could be penalized by the IRS.

  • File for bankruptcy - A thief may file for bankruptcy using your identity in order to avoid having to pay for debts they incurred using your name.

  • Commit a crime or get into legal trouble - When a thief is arrested using a stolen identity , fingerprints and criminal records are put on the victim's file. The resulting criminal record can result in the victim being turned down for jobs or other matters requiring background checks. In extreme cases, outstanding warrants in the victim's name can lead to mistaken arrest and jailing.