Identity theft is a crime involving the impersonation of another person in order to take advantage of his status, credit or good name.
For example, if a criminal steals the name, address and social security number of another person, he could open a credit card scount in the name of that person and then purchase expensive items. The criminal could then sell the items to a fence leaving the other person or the credit card company with the financial loss.
As an other example, the criminal can use the name and social security number to file a false tax return for the target, claiming that a large refund is due. The Internal Revenue Service will then send the requested tax refund check to the criminal. The crime will not be discovered until the person later files the real tax return, and his refund check will be delayed until the crime is properly handled.
In addition to financial crimes, identity theft can also involve gaining access or control over the target's email or social media accounts. Once the hacker has control of the account, he can change the password which would cut off further access by the rightful owner of the account. To protect against this, users are asked to provide the telephone number of a smart phone. If an account is attacked in an identity theft, the rightful owner can use the smart phone to regain control and set a different password.