Identity theft occurs when somebody steals your personal information (credit card numbers, social security number, etc.) and poses as you, running up charges or emptying your bank accounts.
It could take months or years to learn if you are a victim to clear your name. Some people don't find out until they apply for a loan and get turned down because of a bad credit report.
Identity Theft Prevention
Some ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of this type of crime are:
Do not give out your personal information: Do not give this information over the phone or the computer unless you are sure of who you are talking to and initiated the contact.
Destroy unused financial solicitations: Such as credit card application and other financial documents. Tear them up or shred them.
Report lost or stolen checks, ATM cards or credit cards immediately.
Make sure your mailbox is secure and remove mail as soon as possible.
If you do not receive a credit card or other statement one month contact your Credit Card Company or financial institution: Thieves may remove mail from your mailbox or use other methods to obtain your statements.
Check your credit report annually: This lets you know of any unauthorized access.