Thieves use a variety of ways to get in and steal property. They might be dressed in fake company service uniforms to avoid attention or break in during the day when you are at work.

Different security measures need to be taken for both types of threats. Similarly, ID-theft criminals also use more than one tactic to steal from us with identity fraud and identity theft. Knowing what these ID threats are will help you defend against both. Identity fraud relates to the fraudulent use or attempted use of your credit/debit card, checking/savings account, driver’s license, health insurance card, personal or work e-mail or other types of identification to steal money or information from an existing account or member benefit.

Identity theft happens when a criminal uses your personally identifiable information, which can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify and pretend to be that person. Fraudulent use of your Social Security number or a bank-account number can allow an identity- theft criminal to open accounts to initiate fraudulent transactions in your name. When this happens, that criminal may cause financial loss or a negative credit score to unsuspecting consumers or a small business. Identity theft is more complicated and is usually a bigger problem than identity fraud.

If fraudulent transactions occur on your account, it does not necessarily mean your identity was stolen. Identity fraud is related to a single credit-, debit-, checking-, or savings account-related event. Fraudulent transactions can be solved through the fraud and security division of your bank, credit card or health insurance company. So how do identity theft and identity fraud happen? Most of the individual consumers and business executives that I speak to believe identity theft and identity fraud are related to information technology and hacking. While the data breach news headlines lead most people to believe IT and hacking are the primary source of these events,  the real primary source is the insider threat. Insiders include current or former employees, vendors, and even customers, along with family members and friends who take advantage of their relationship.

So how can you protect you or your business? As a consumer, safeguard your personally identifiable information by participating in an ID theft self-assessment quiz along with additional education, including fraud-prevention tips. As a business, be proactive in annual information security and governance assessments, speak with your insurance broker to ensure you have appropriate coverage based on the specific information you collect and maintain, and read my columns on to stay informed of the ever-changing threat landscape. You also can find consumer and business assessment tools and fraud-prevention education resources at many websites such as your financial institution, health insurer, employer or your identity-theft service provider.

Mark’s Most Important: Keep in mind that ID-theft criminals use ID fraud and ID theft. Plan accordingly to protect your personal and financial information.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at

This article was originally published on and republished with the author’s permission.

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