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Identity theft: do definitions still matter?


  • Julia S. Cheney


Despite a statutory definition of identity theft, there is a continuing debate on whether differences among the financial frauds associated with identity theft warrant further distinction and treatment, not only by lenders and financial institutions but also by consumers and regulatory and law enforcement agencies. In this Discussion Paper, Julia S. Cheney examines four types of financial fraud – fictitious identity fraud, payment card fraud, account takeover fraud, and true name fraud – that fall under the legal term identity theft to better understand how criminal behavior patterns, risks for consumers and lenders, and mitigation strategies vary depending upon the sort of data stolen, the type of account compromised, and the opportunity for financial gain. Three areas key to developing effective solutions that, in the view of the author, would benefit from further definitional delineations are identified: measuring the success (or failure) of efforts to fight this crime, educating consumers about the risks and responses to this crime, and coordinating mitigation strategies across stakeholders and geographies.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia S. Cheney, 2005. "Identity theft: do definitions still matter?," Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper 05-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpdp:05-10

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    Cited by:

    1. Keith B. Anderson & Erik Durbin & Michael A. Salinger, 2008. "Identity Theft," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 171-192, Spring.
    2. Cheney, Julia S. & Hunt, Robert M. & Mikhed, Vyacheslav & Ritter, Dubravka & Vogan, Michael, 2014. "Identity theft as a teachable moment," Working Papers 14-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    3. Alessandro Acquisti & Curtis Taylor & Liad Wagman, 2016. "The Economics of Privacy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 442-492, June.
    4. Stacey L. Schreft, 2007. "Risks of identity theft: Can the market protect the payment system?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q IV, pages 5-40.
    5. Roberds, William & Schreft, Stacey L., 2009. "Data breaches and identity theft," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(7), pages 918-929, October.
    6. Kyoung-Soo Yoon & Jooyong Jun, 2016. "Liability, Information, and Anti-fraud Investment in a Layered Retail Payment Structure," Working Papers 2016-12, Economic Research Institute, Bank of Korea.
    7. William Roberds & Stacey L. Schreft, 2009. "Data security, privacy, and identity theft: The economics behind the policy debates," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 22-30.

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    Identity theft ; Fraud ; Credit cards;

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