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What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses personal information that can identify you, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission. They use these to commit fraud or other crimes.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. When thieves have this stolen information, can rent an apartment, apply and recieve a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name.
Identity theft is a VERY serious crime. Many identity theft victims might be able to resolve their problems quickly. Most, however, will spend hundreds of dollars and alot of time repairing the damage to their good name and credit record.
How can someone steal your identity?
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
Dumpster Diving. They pick ("dive") through trash (personal or commercial) looking for items with your personal information on it.
Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies by calling or emailing spam to get you to reveal your personal information.
Changing Your Address. They change your billing address to another location by completing a change of address form.
Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records from your employer, or bribe employees who have access.
Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
Finding out if your identity has been stolen.
Persistant monitoring of your accounts and bank statements and by checking your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
Usually, many people learn that their identity has been stolen after the damage has been done. You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred, when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan or when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.
What you should do if your identity has been stolen.
Immediately file a police report! Check your credit reports, notify your creditors, and dispute any unauthorized transactions. These will help to restore your good name quickly.