Identity Theft Glossary

Below is a list of useful terms to help you better understand identity theft:

Check Washing

A method used by crooks when erasing the amount of funds on your personal check to increase the amount on your check. This is accomplished by using acetone, a chemical easily obtained by a crook.

Consumer Sentinel Database

A tool used by law enforcement that allows them to access thousands of consumers online information dealing with internet telemarketing and other types of selling fraud.


Good Credit means that your history of payments employment and salary could put you in good standings to borrow money, although bad credit could make things a bit harder to buy things without the cash up front. This is your financial trustworthiness, good credit can get you lower payments, and easier to get the money in the beginning.

Credit Repair Agency

Credit repair agencies will protect your right as a consumer to have a credit report that is accurate and fair. The agency will contact the credit bureaus dispute questionable items on your credit reports. If the credit bureaus are unable to verify the accuracy of information found on your reports, those items must be deleted. There are many scams associated with Credit Report Agencies. If an agency promises to remove derogatory, but accurate items on your credit report- -beware. Those promises are false and usually a sign of an agency trying to get your money with false promises.

Credit Scoring

Credit Scoring is used by most creditors who are evaluating your credit report. This involves your application, your current debt, annual income, and payment history. The types of accounts you have and how long you have had them.

Data Breach

The unauthorized disclosure of information that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personally identifiable information.


  • Such information may include, but not be limited to, Social Security number, name and addresses, date of birth, health care, bank account information, etc.
Fair Credit Reporting Act

The FCRA is a U.S. federal law that gives everyone the right to see what the CRAs have on file in their credit report. It also outlines a periodic free copy of a credit report. And if inaccuracies are found, they have the right to dispute them.

Identity fraud

Identity Fraud is when a thief uses personal information that he has made up, rather than that which belongs to a real person. It is different than identity theft in that the perpetrator is not assuming the identity of another “real” person, but rather they are trying to “mask” their identity and trying to assume the identity of a fictitious person. Identity Theft is where a crook obtains key pieces of personal information, such as Social Security number, drivers license information, name, address, mothers maiden name, and more so that they can impersonate a real person. The crook can then assume that persons identity. There are really two variants here: a crook can open new accounts in a victims name, this is referred to true account identity theft, or the crook can use the personal information to gain access to victims existing accounts, which is often referred to as account takeover identity theft.


  • All of these are examples of what would be considered identity theft.
  • A crook taking your credit card and making an unauthorized purchase. Credit card fraud is the most common form of identity theft, accounting for almost one third of all reported cases.
  • Someone obtains enough of your personal information to use your name and without your permission opens a utility or cell phone account in your name.
  • Someone impersonates you and is employed using your name.
Link Masking

Link masking is the tactic used by phishing e-mails to get victims thinking that they are being directed to one site, when in fact, they are being directed to another. For example, although the link: would lead you to believe that if you click on it, you would be directed to Microsoft’s site, it really takes you to a page within this site.


Phishing is the practice of “fishing” for victims and luring these unsuspecting Internet users to a fake Web site. This is accomplished by using authentic-looking email with the real organization’s log with the purpose being to steal passwords, financial or personal information, or introduce a virus attack.

Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder surfing is the name given to the procedure that identity thieves use to find out your passwords, personal identification number, account numbers and more. Simply, they look over your shoulder–or even watch from a distance using binoculars, in order to get those pieces of information that help them steal your money, or even worse, your identity.


Skimming is another method identity thieves use to get your personal information. Typically it is accomplished by running your credit card, ATM card, driver’s license, etc. through a card reader, aka “skimmer”. The information is then stored for later use. Often the perpetrators are an employee of a restaurant, a gas station, or any other place, where you give your card to someone else to process a transaction. Once your information is skimmed, they can then make purchases or even use the information to steal your good name or create a replica of your card.

Truncated credit card number

A truncated credit card number is what you see on many receipts and other papers that have your credit card number on them. All the digits, except for the last four, appear as “x”. This is done to protect you from an unauthorized person seeing your credit card number.

Two-Factor Identification

Two-factor authentication is any authentication protocol that requires two independent ways to establish identity and privileges. This contrasts with traditional password authentication, which requires only one “factor” (knowledge of a password) in order to gain access to a system.

Victim Statement

This is a statement attached to your credit report when you think your identity may have been stolen. Creditors will contact you with information if an account has any large changes or if a new account is being opened.