The Federal Trade Commission 1 notes that identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
The FTC estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make—or until you're contacted by a debt collector.
Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some 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. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
1 "What is Identity Theft." About Identity Theft". Federal Trade Commission 05 May 2008.
If you would like additional information on identity theft or you feel that your identity has been stolen, you may want to read the Federal Trade Commission's brochure, "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft" or a brochure entitled "You Have the Power to Stop Identity Theft," a message from the federal bank, credit union and thrift regulatory agencies. These publications discuss ways to prevent from becoming a victim of identity theft and steps to take if you feel you have been a victim.