It is sometimes said that the worst crimes are the ones that happen right under people's noses. If that's true, then identity theft is one of the worst crimes imaginable, because it happens on a huge scale every single day. Identity theft at its core is simply the use of a person's information or likeness without their permission. It can be something as innocuous as a teenager using someone's ID in order to buy alcohol or sneak into a movie, or as serious as someone stealing the Social Security number of someone else and using it to wreck havoc on that person's life, but identity theft is a truly serious crime.
Identity Theft Changes
Before the Internet, the easiest way to steal someone's identity was through postal mail. By going through someone's mailbox or discarded trash, it was possible to take things like credit card preapprovals, bills, bank statements or even renewal notices and misuse them. By changing a few simple details, using any of these items could result in a thief being able to use someone else's information for personal gain. Today, much of the identity theft that happens takes place via the Internet, with email being one of the largest targets. Most people will not think twice about opening something in their inbox that looks like it's from one of their favorite sites and then clicking on a link within. Not only can this lead to them giving information to sites that are not legitimate, but it can also lead to computer viruses and adware that will continue to phish for information for scammers and thieves.
Who Would Steal an Identity?
The answer to this question cannot easily be answered, but the best guess is that those stealing identities are doing it looking to make a quick buck at someone else's expense. There are even services that sell the information that has been stolen to needy parties, making it so that the true thieves are not even the ones using the information - they're just middlemen. The people that use the identities of others might just need some quick cash, want a big ticket item, or need the information of another in order to do something like get a job or get a home... needs differ between individuals, not none of them have good intention. In some cases, those that steal identities simply have nothing better to do - which is almost worse than someone doing it out of absolute need.
How is it Damaging to the Victims?
Identity theft and the problems that arise from being a victim can be harmful for long periods of time. Even after becoming aware of and putting a stop to the theft, the repercussions may be long lasting and immense. It takes time to have funds replaced, or to get things straightened out with the government; while individuals may be absolutely certain that they were the victims, it takes convincing to get others to see things the same way. An exhausting process, recovering from identity theft has been made easier with the creation of tools like identity and credit monitoring services, which help people take notice of theft early on, rather than it remaining unnoticed for long periods of time.