Identity theft is someone taking personal information like your name, Social Security number, or financial account number and using it for an unlawful purpose. Everyday people, business owners, well-known celebrities, and children are prey to it. In California, all forms of identity theft are crimes (Penal Code section 530.5 et. seq.).
Identity thieves do many things in a victim's name. They open new credit accounts, take out auto loans, enjoy medical services (and make insurance claims), and even commit crimes and generate criminal records.
Identity theft does not discriminate. There were 12.7 million U.S. adult victims in 2014, or nearly one victim every 2.5 seconds. That figure represents 4% of U.S. adults, including over a 1.5 million Californians. The number of victims declined slightly from 13.1 million in 2013.
Identity theft is also expensive. The total cost of identity theft to victims and businesses in 2014 was $16 million, down from $18 million in 2013 . The decrease continues to be the result of a greater share of fraud involving existing credit/debit card accounts, which is less costly than other forms of identity theft.
Note: The statistics cited are from the Javelin Strategy & Research "2015 Identity Fraud Report", released in March 2015.