Is it a serious crminal offense to use someones email, phone number and address to register for online newsletters and other sites?

Asked on March 9, 2014 under Criminal Law, District of Columbia

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a crime whereby criminals impersonate individuals, usually for financial gain. In today's society, you often need to reveal personal bits of information about yourself, such as your social security number, signature, name, address, phone number, cell number or even banking and credit card information. If a thief is able to access this personal information, he or she can use it to commit fraud in your name.

Armed with your personal information, a malicious person could do any number of things, like apply for loans or new credit card accounts. It's possible they could request a billing address change and run up your existing credit card without your knowledge. A thief could use counterfeit checks and debit cards or authorize electronic transfers in your name and wipe out funds in a bank account.

Identity theft can also go beyond a monetary impact. Thieves can use your information to obtain a driver's license or other documentation that would display their photo but your name and information. With these documents thieves could to obtain a job and file fraudulent income tax returns, apply for travel documents, file insurance claims, or even provide your name and mailing address to police and other authorities if involved in other criminal activities.

                  

 

Using Information on the Internet for Identity Theft

The outcome of identity theft is usually the same, regardless of how the thief obtains your information. However, the Internet is providing new ways for people to steal your personal information and to commit fraud. Thieves can accomplish their goal several ways such as using Internet chat rooms and spreading Trojan horses that drop key loggers on your computer to transmit any passwords, usernames and credit card numbers you use on your computer back to the thieves. Many online businesses today also store personal information about customers and shoppers on websites, and this provides another way for your personal information to be accessed, without your permission or knowledge.

Additionally, email phishing is another way that thieves can attempt to gather your personal information. Phishing emails falsely claim to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam you into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The email will direct you to visit a website where you're asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers — information the legitimate organization already has. The website, however, is bogus and set up only to steal your information.

Recommended Reading: All About Phishing

Is Internet Identity Theft Cause for Concern?

Internet-based identity theft is a problem and it makes people hesitant about making a purchase online, or signing up for what others consider everyday occurrences such as creating a PayPal account, purchasing from ecommerce sites, using auction sites or even using Internet banking and checking credit card statements online.

While Internet identity theft is definitely a hot topic in the media today, Internet identity theft actually accounts for only a small percentage of the total identity theft fraud cases.

Answer: from what you have written about, you are bordering on indentity theft.


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