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Identity thieves can use personally identifiable information to create fake or counterfeit documents such as birth certificates, licenses, and social security cards (document fraud). One way that thieves can use the stolen information is to obtain government benefits in a victim’s name. This directly affects the victim if the victim attempts to legitimately apply for benefits and then is denied because someone else may already be fraudulently receiving those benefits under the victim’s name.

The creation of fraudulent documents may, among other things, provide fake identities for unauthorized immigrants living in the United States or fake passports for people trying to illegally enter the United States. In addition, the Department of Justice has indicated that identity theft is implicated in international terrorism. In May 2002, former Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that:

[I]dentity theft is a major facilitator of international terrorism. Terrorists have used stolen identities in connection with planned terrorist attacks. An Algerian national facing U.S. charges of identity theft, for example, allegedly stole the identities of 21 members of a health club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and transferred the identities to one of the individuals convicted in the failed 1999 plot to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport.[1]

Identity theft and resulting document fraud can thus have not only an economic impact on the United States, but a national security impact as well.


  1. U.S. Department of Justice, Transcript of Attorney General Remarks at Identity Theft Press Conference Held With FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris and Senator Diane Feinstein, DOJ Conference Center (May 2, 2002) (full-text). Also cited in U.S. General Accounting Office, Identity Fraud: Prevalence and Links to Alien Illegal Activities 9 (GAO-02-830T) (June 25, 2002) (full-text).