You"re purchasing a snack and you realize you don't have any cash on you. You pull out your favorite credit card and the next thing you know the clerk turns around and says "your credit card has been denied." But by this time it's too late. Bank accounts have been opened in your name using your personal information, unpaid credit cards have been issued but diverted to another address, a warrant is out for you in your good name, and thousands of dollars have been stolen from you. You have been a victim of identity theft and you never knew about it.
Identity theft is one of the most committed types of fraudulent of crimes. This incidence rate is doubling every 2-3 years and has almost reached a total of 1 million American victims (4). If your identity is stolen and abused over a period of time, you could be spending months or even years investing thousands of dollars cleaning up the mess thieves have made of your good name and established credit. If they are not caught immediately, a victim could lose job opportunities, be denied new credit cards, house loans, car loans, or even test driving a car.
Thieves can obtain your personal information through several easy ways. Your social security number is one of the most useful numbers a thief can use to hurt you. This number can be obtained if you've lost your wallet and you had been carrying your social security card in it or if you've been writing it on every time on your checks. Another way thieves can easily obtain your personal information is when they look through the garbage and find personal information you threw away. More recently, thieves have been using the Internet as a means to obtain your personal information claiming that "You Won a prize click here to enter your shipping information.".
Once a thief has your information, they will typically complete a "change of address form" so as to divert your mail to another location.