Identity theft is a pervasive crime. In 2014, many reports estimated that approximately 17.6 million Americans experienced identity theft, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Many myths persist regarding this activity, and these may make everyday citizens believe they are safer than they actually are. They can also make some people believe they have a good chance of getting away with this type of criminal offense. However, penalties for a conviction are serious; it is important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to identity theft.

Myth #1: Personal information is useless to thieves

Thieves can use every piece of information about someone’s personal life. Information that is common to post on social media, including home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, is absolutely useful. Additionally, posting information related to whereabouts, such as going on a trip to another state, can alert people when someone is away from home. 

Myth #2: Only adults can fall victim to identity theft

Young children can also fall victim to identity theft scams. In many cases, people will specifically target children’s information because they do not have credit cards yet. Thieves can acquire a child’s Social Security number through medical and school records.

Myth #3: People will know immediately if their personal information is stolen

Some people with the know-how will target huge organizations. Target, CVS and dozens of other companies had well-publicized hacks where thieves took thousands or even millions of people’s accounts. People may believe they will know immediately if someone took their information, but it is common for a person to wait at least a year after a publicized hack because he or she knows consumers and banks will be on the lookout for suspicious activity. 

Myth #4: Identity theft only affects finances

Most cases of identity theft relate to someone taking a person’s credit card information to purchase items. However, it can extend far beyond that. One example is if the cops pull over someone who has another’s driver’s license and other identifying information. The driver gives that to the officer instead of his own to prevent him from receiving a citation or DUI charge. 

Because identity theft is a federal crime with severe repercussions, it is important for anyone facing charges to have a strong criminal defense strategy.