Identity Theft

"My bank must stop trying to sell me identity theft protection. You know why I expect you to protect my money? Because you're a BANK."

Bill Maher, American comedian
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This free ESL lesson plan on identity theft has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Mr Ripley was indeed a talented man. Presumably, he knew how to obtain social security numbers and carried a credit card scanner with him at all times. Identity theft has become one of the most widespread crimes around the world. The risks are low and the rewards extremely high. The police are rarely informed as banks seek to protect their own reputations. But identity theft can have a huge impact on the victims who may struggle for years to prove to creditors either who they are, or that debts are not theirs. In this ESL lesson plan on identity theft, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what identity theft is, and how to protect against it.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Data Privacy Day, which takes place in January. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

BBC | ‘Having my identity stolen cost me £10,000’

The article recounts the experience of Gemma, a woman whose identity was stolen and used by criminals to take out loans and which has left her with £10,000 in costs. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is called “What to do if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft” by the Bank of America which explains the steps you can take if you discover, or suspect, that you have been the victim of identity theft.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how big a problem identity theft is, the indications of identity theft, and any movies or books that feature identity theft.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with identity theft such as clone/skim a credit card, phishing and impersonate. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about identity theft. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether someone could steal an identity and live a new life, whether banks take identity theft serious, and what the student would do if they could steal someone’s identity for a day.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of identity theft. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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2 thoughts on “Identity Theft”

    1. Hmmm…It’s in the news today that Bank of America just got fined $150 million for opening fake accounts in their customers’ names, which is very ironic considering the theme of the video! I wonder if that’s why they’ve made it private to avoid sarcastic comments like mine? Oh well, looks like I’ll have to search for another video and update the lesson plan – cheers for letting me know

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