Identity Fraud & Theft Glossary of Terms

Definition Please!

So Many Types of Identity FraudLearning about identity theft and identity fraud can require mastering a whole new language. Here’s quick guide to some common terms you should know:

Bot: An automated software program that scans the victim’s computer for private information and sends fraudulent email from a host computer.

Credit freeze: Also known as a security freeze, this requires a credit reporting agency to lock the information in your credit report from being released without your permission.

Credit reporting agency (CRA): One of three agencies that track consumer credit records – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Data breach: Unauthorized release of private information, commonly associated with credit and debit card payments. Thieves intercept payment data and use it to generate fraudulent charges.

Dumpster diving: Thieves go through trash to obtain sensitive information such as social security numbers, bank accounts, medical insurance and credit cards.

Fraud alert: requires credit reporting agencies to verify identity before releasing credit reports.

Ghosting: Stealing the identity of a deceased person.

Identity fraud: an unlawful identity change. Example: using someone else’s credit card information in order to make purchases. Identity fraud may occur without identity theft if the fraudster simply fabricates information or if the “victim” is in collusion with the fraudster.

Identity theft: occurs when personal information is stolen in order to commit identity fraud. Common types include:

  • Financial – spending and/or taking over accounts
  • Medical / Insurance – obtaining treatment and evading payment
  • Criminal – using someone else’s clean criminal record
  • Child – because children don’t check their credit records until they become adults
  • Synthetic – blending multiple stolen identities into a single ID.

Mail fraud: Using stolen mail to perpetrate fraud. Examples: using stolen pre-approved credit card offers to get fraudulent cards or stealing bill payments to intercept checks, from which fraudulent checks can be made.

Malware: Malicious software, generally installed without the user’s knowledge or permission.

Phishing: Victims receive official-looking email directing them to provide log-in information (including passwords), credit card information, bank account numbers, and so on at designated fake sites.

Shoulder surfing: Thieves look over the shoulders of their victims – sometimes with binoculars — in order to obtain PIN numbers or other identifying information.

Skimming: Thieves install or deploy their own card swiping devices in order to capture payment card information.

Smishing: The mobile version of phishing, by text message instead of email.

Spyware: A type of malware that transmits information it gathers about the user’s computer activity, including log-ins and passwords.

What identity fraud term would you add to our list?