In Cyber Safety, The Digital World

Your Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Theft Definition

We all know what theft means; it’s the taking of someone else’s property without their permission or consent. But did you know that there are many different types of theft? And did you know that theft is not only restricted to tangible things, like jewelry or documents or money? In this day and age, there are new kinds of theft emerging everyday, especially with our abundant online presence and dependence on the digital nature of things.

|SEE ALSO: Can You Be Safe Online for Real?|

Identity Theft Definition

The website defines identity theft as a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or social security number, to commit fraud. An identity thief can also steal your banking information and use it to make purchases or payments. You may not even know that you are the victim of identity theft until you experience a financial consequence, like receiving a bill for something you didn’t purchase, or seeing transactions on your bank statement that you didn’t make. Crimes like these not only cause the victim to lose large amounts of money, but can also affect their reputation.

Many people feel that identity theft can’t happen to them, but they don’t realize how easy it is for criminals to obtain their personal data. Identity thieves can gain access to your email, your bank information, your social security number, etc. and use this information to open bank accounts in your name, purchase or rent things using your money, or even go as far as gaining employment with your identity.

In trying to understand the definition of identity theft, one must also understand the standpoint of the offended party. Defining identity theft entails protecting yourself, and it is to your advantage to avoid identity attacks, because it takes a lot of effort to undo the damage done by one. Our article Online Safety: 10 Best Tips sheds some light on how to do that.

Be wary of who you give your personal information to. If a supposed bank representative calls you and says your bank account needs verification and asks for your father’s middle name, it isn’t necessary to give them that info if it is already on file. If you have been chosen to receive a prize, a costly item, or a ‘platinum credit card’ and they request your Social Security Number or credit card expiration date, ask them to give you a paper application. If they refuse, end the conversation.

There are several ways to report identity theft and try to control the damage it may have caused, as well as prevent any further consequences. You can create a complaint form with the details of your experience at, and this page on explains what can be done in different cases and scenarios, including tax-related identity theft and medical identity theft.

Petty Theft Definition

If a person snatches a lady’s purse, steals a candy bar from a store, or shoplifts a pack of batteries, how does the law view the seriousness of the crime? These kinds of thefts are called pretty thefts and are categorized as minor misdemeanors. According to this page on, the term ‘petty theft’ comes from the French word ‘petit’, or small. It’s not as serious as big time crimes and is evaluated by the value of the taken property.

Each state sets its own limit for the statutory amount determining petty theft, but it usually falls between $500 and $1000. Stolen items above this range are categorized as grand thefts. The penalty of petty thefts varies, however, offenders can expect no less than 6 months in jail or a small fine. These are small crimes that are usually committed by teens or petty thieves. Not every state or city will give the same sentence, but multiple petty offences can lead to a felony charge.

Grand Theft Auto Definition

Compared to petty theft or common stealing, taking a vehicle is automatically categorized as grand theft in most states and is a felony punishable by imprisonment, even if the car is not worth much. Grand theft is a crime considered serious enough by the government to charge the offender with at least one year in jail, and the value of property stolen must exceed $500.

Auto theft is a dangerous crime because it endangers the lives of others. A car thief, when pursued by the law, will drive at break-neck speeds, not caring who is in their path or where they are going. A large percentage of these people are drug addicts who steal cars and sell them to get money for more drugs. This page on goes into further detail about grand theft auto and explains the different punishments that fall on thieves who are found guilty. It also explains that, in order for the victim to prove the crime, they must provide evidence that:

  • the offender took the vehicle
  • that it was not theirs
  • they intended to keep the vehicle permanently

And, if the offender is found guilty, the law states that:

  • they must spend time in prison
  • they must pay the offended for any damages done to the vehicle
  • they must also pay the state a fine or be on probation

Intellectual Property Theft Definition

Intellectual property falls in many categories. For individuals, it can be a song they composed and recorded, lyrics they created, a book they’ve written, or even a video they recorded. For large companies, it is the mascot, the trademark used to define the company, the logos that symbolize the company, or any ideas used to launch sales. All of these innovations can be given copyrights or patented to the ones who own them.

When a person or a group of people take what someone else creates and uses it for themselves, this is known as intellectual property theft. This crime is easy to commit because the thief only has to let others do the work and then claim it as their own. This is a serious crime which affects many individuals and companies that put time and effort into their work. This crime can:

  • cause people to lose employment
  • take away credit from the real creator of the product or idea
  • rob the government of tax revenues
  • spark organized crime and gang activity

Placing a copyright or patent on materials immediately does a lot to impede intellectual property theft. To report violations of intellectual property rights, including counterfeiting and piracy, you may visit the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center website or call (866) 477-2060.

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