Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the World. Approximately, 11.8 million Americans (one in twenty adults) have been victimized by identity theft as of April 2003, according to research by Star Systems. Credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, and other personal identification can net criminals thousands of dollars in a very short period of time. Most often, identity thieves will obtain your personal identification numbers and obtain credit in your name by having credit cards, goods or services delivered to their address or mail drop. Since the bills for charges incurred are sent to the thief's address, not yours, you will be unaware that debt is mounting up in your name until the collections department tracks you down. By then your credit report will already be riddled with late payment histories and show many accounts in collections. As you can imagine the credit reporting bureaus will be reluctant to change negative credit without proof that you didn't create the bad credit.

Types of ID Theft

Identity theft can take many forms. An illegal immigrant may use your social security number (SSN) and date of birth (DOB) for employment purposes or to obtain a birth certificate. Imagine the confusion that can be created when the IRS wants to know why you didn't declare the extra income reported to them caused by someone using your name and social security number. Sometimes personal identification numbers are sold over and over to hundreds of individuals who in turn attempt to obtain bogus credit in your name or establish utility services and run up the bills. Sometimes arrested criminals will use false names, DOBs, and SSNs that belong to another. Innocent persons have discovered that they have criminal records because of a misused ID. See how easy it is for you to explain to family, coworkers or friends that you are mistakenly arrested for an outstanding criminal warrant.

Restoring Stolen Identity

Identity theft can take months and sometimes even years to detect and can take about the same time to correct the damage. According to the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and the Privacy Rights Clearing House, victims of identity theft spend an average of 175 hours and $808 in out-of-pocket costs (not including attorney fees) to fix their wrecked credit problem. Identity theft can significantly traumatize anyone because it is unnerving to know (or not know) the extent of the damage to your name, credit or reputation. There have been cases reported where it has taken victims years to restore their credit and good name, and had problems being able to cash checks, obtain loans or even rent an apartment.

Preventive Steps

If You Become a Victim

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