Is Credit Card Fraud really not Identity Theft?

While I was browsing the web for the latest Identity Theft news, I came across an article titled Credit Card Fraud Really Isn’t Identity Theft by Robert Siciliano.

I would like to say that Robert Siciliano is a very respectable professional. He definitely has my respect and my attention. However, even people who are called experts, including myself, bring up points that are highly debatable.

In the article, Mr. Siciliano states that Credit Card Fraud isn’t really Identity Theft.

I like the fact that he explained what Credit Card Fraud is and that it has two categories: Account Takeover and New Account Fraud, which, he states, is True Identity Theft.

With that being said, I feel that I should clarify a few points, because there is too much confusion (as it is) about what falls under the term “Identity Theft”. And I will probably get very detailed and technical here.

Is Credit Card Fraud really not Identity Theft?

In my humble opinion, Credit Card Fraud is a form of Identity Theft/Identity Fraud as it pertains to the consumers.

US Code Title 18, Section 1028(a)(7) (as amended by the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act) defines Identity Theft as an act in which any person(s)

knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law”.

What is “means of identification”?

Let’s find out! For that, we have to refer to the US Code Title 18, Section 1028(d)(7) again-

the term “means of identification” means any name or number that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including any—

(A) name, social security number, date of birth, official State or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, employer or taxpayer identification number;

(B) unique biometric data, such as fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image, or other unique physical representation;

(C) unique electronic identification number, address, or routing code; or

(D) telecommunication identifying information or access device (as defined in section 1029(e)).

All points seem to be clear in the description, but what is “access device”?

Now, let’s refer to 18 USC § 1029 (e) (1),

the term “access device” means any card, plate, code, account number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, personal identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier, or other means of account access that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access device, to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds (other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument).

Interesting. A Credit Card Number IS an “account number”; therefore, it would fall under the “means of identification” as defined by law.

In lament terms, for all intents and purposes, from a legal standpoint, Identity Theft crime happens when your information has been stolen for the purpose of committing fraud or any other unlawful activities in your name; therefore, credit card fraud would fall under the umbrella of Identity Theft.

The confusion usually stems from the disparity in definitions used by Federal Law and the Financial Institutions.

Financial Institutions’ definitions of Identity Theft/Identity Fraud are completely different and pertain to their operations. Their definitions are very limited and self-serving.

Identity Fraud, in their view, or “Credit Card Fraud”, which may also be referred to as “Simple Credit Card Fraud” happens when an existing credit card account was used without the cardholder’s consent.

When someone opens a new account in the victim’s name, Financial Institutions call this crime “New account fraud” or “True name fraud”, which, in their view, is considered to be Identity Theft.

Here I go again, what is Fraud?

Fraud is the intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right. per Law Dictionary

In my opinion, Credit Card Fraud happens to the banks and other financial institutions, because they are the ones that are being deceived and tricked by the identity thieves.

But what happens to the cardholders, whose personal information has been compromised, stolen and misused? That’s right! They become victims of Financial Identity Theft.

Again, if I am going to get really nit-picky and logical, “True Identity Theft” is a complete identity take-over, or Identity Cloning and Assumption, which happens when a thief completely assumes the victim’s identity. The thief lives and works as the victim; goes by the victim’s name. In the victim’s name, the thief takes out loans, buys properties, collects tax refunds, files bankruptcies,etc.

 Some interesting trivia:

The term “Identity Theft” was first coined by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1964, but it was used in the context of espionage and not fraud for monetary gain. It defines Identity Theft as “the dishonest acquisition of personal information in order to perpetrate fraud, typically by obtaining credit, loans, etc., in someone else’s name; fraud perpetrated in this way; (also) an instance of this”.

Now that I may have confused people even more, any questions?



About the Author

Lana is a real life Identity Theft Victim. Identity Theft Manifesto is a result of her own struggles to clear her credit, her name and reputation. She is on the mission to research, learn more and educate her readers about ID Theft Crime.