Identity Theft: Do Definitions Still Matter?

FRB of Philadelphia Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper

22 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2005

See all articles by Julia S. Cheney

Julia S. Cheney

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Date Written: August 2005


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.

Keywords: Identity, Identity theft, Payment card fraud, Credit cards, Debit cards

Suggested Citation

Cheney, Julia S., Identity Theft: Do Definitions Still Matter? (August 2005). FRB of Philadelphia Payment Cards Center Discussion Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Julia S. Cheney (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

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