Identity theft is a federal crime that occurs when a person's identification, including name, social security number, or any other account number is used or transferred by another person for unlawful purposes.
Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States, with complaints rising 73 percent from 2001 to 2002. Identity theft is the most popular form of consumer fraud because it is the most profitable. Identity thieves stole nearly $100 million from financial institutions in 2001, an average of $6,767 per victim. In 1992, TransUnion received around 35,000 calls about identity theft; in 2001 calls reached over one million. The FBI estimates that 700,000 to 1.1 million Americans are victims of identity theft. On average, victims spend 175 plus hours and $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses to clear their names.