Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information like name or Social Security, credit card, bank account or personal identification numbers without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft takes many forms, including thieves rummaging through the trash to find a bank statement so they can misuse the checking account. It can also include a thief renting an apartment in your name or getting a credit card to buy expensive stereo equipment. You might not find out about it until months later when a loan application gets rejected or you notice charges on your credit card statement that you did not make.
Identity theft is serious.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend hundreds of dollars and many days cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. The potential for damage, loss and stress is considerable. Consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. They may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.