Identity Theft and Identity Fraud

Identity theft and identity fraud are two terms that are thrown around often, and sometimes used interchangeably. However, you may be wondering if there are any differences between the two crimes.

The short answer is, yes, there are some differences, but they are subtle and sometimes difficult to distinguish. For this reason, we have outlined some of the most basic disparities between the two.

Difference #1 – The Way The Information Is Used

Criminals who commit identity theft use your personal information – Social Security number, birth date, name and address – to assume your identity. Once they have this information, they may open new accounts using your information or use your existing information to apply for jobs or file taxes.

The Department of Justice says identity fraud occurs when criminals use your information to commit crimes, ranging from financial infractions to more serious acts. This may include using your credit card to make fraudulent purchases or committing crimes under your name. In short, the difference lies in how the information is used.

Difference#2 – Identity Fraud Is Often The Result Of Identity Theft

Identity fraud is a difficult crime to commit without first obtaining an individual’s personal information. This means that in order for a criminal to commit identity fraud, he or she must first obtain your personal information, which is classified as identity theft. For this reason, the two crimes usually go hand in hand.

Difference #3 – Criminals Can Commit Other Types of Fraud Without Committing Identity Theft

Identity fraud is a type of crime that results from obtaining your personal information to commit crimes. However, criminals do not always have to have your information to commit other types of fraud, such as financial scams. Criminals may also make up personal information about a person who does not exist, and use this information to set up accounts with lenders, merchants and financial institutions. These types of crimes may be perpetrated by individuals or fraud rings.

Identity theft is a multifaceted crime that involves many legal and financial components. For this reason, understanding the different types of crimes that fall within the definition of identity theft or relate to the crime can be difficult. But knowing how these crimes work separately or in conjunction with each other can give you a better handle on how criminals operate.

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This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company.   © 2014, Inc.  All rights reserved.