What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains your personal information, such as your social security number, credit card number, bank account number, or other identification and uses it to open accounts or initiate transactions in your name. Examples of fraudulent activities conducted by criminals include: opening new credit cards, opening new bank accounts, forging or counterfeiting checks, and applying for new loans and even mortgages in your name. Such activity can cause financial loss and damage to your credit, which can lead to a lengthy resolution process.
Criminals can obtain personal information via online and offline methods. Stealing wallets and purse, interception or rerouting your mail and rummaging through your garbage are some of the common tactics that thieves may use to obtain your personal information.
How to Recognize Identity Theft
Even if you have been careful with your personal information, identity thieves can strike innocent consumers. The following may be signs of identity theft:
- New accounts on your credit report that are not yours
- Not receiving an expected bill or statement in the mail
- Receiving calls from creditors or debt collectors regarding services or merchandise that you did not purchase
- Credit card or billing statements on accounts for which you did not apply
- Being denied credit or offered less than favorable terms for no reason