Identity Theft

May 11, 2009

Having your possessions stolen is a harrowing experience. Theft obviously deprives you of property, but perhaps even worse, it shakes your confidence in your fellow human being. You may experience such emotions as fear, anger and anxiety.

When someone steals a material possession, at least we usually know fairly quickly that it’s gone. But when someone steals one’s identity, it may go undetected for weeks, months or even years. By the time you realize what has happened, your life may be turned upside down. Picking up the pieces is a long and frustrating process, and it’s possible that you may never undo everything that the identity thief has done.

Identity theft can have numerous effects on its victims. Some of these include:

  • The thief could steal money from your bank account or run up the balance on your credit card. With a checkbook, credit card or debit card, an identity thief can easily access your funds or an existing credit line. There are liability limits when a credit card is used fraudulently, but no such limits apply to checking or savings accounts.
  • The identity thief could open new accounts in your name. With the right information, anyone can apply for a loan or credit card using your identity. If approved, that person can then use the credit card or loan proceeds as he pleases and not bother making payments. The bills will be in your name, and if you do not pay them, it will be your credit rating that suffers.
  • The damage to your credit report from identity theft can make it difficult or impossible to obtain new credit. Any credit you do receive will carry a higher interest rate than you would normally be entitled to.
  • The negative entries on your credit report can make it much harder to get a job or rent a place to live. Employers and landlords often check applicants’ credit reports, and when they see delinquent accounts, they will usually move on to the next applicant.
  • Having your identity stolen could land you in jail. Some identity thieves do what they do to avoid jail time or keep their criminal records clean. They may commit fraud using a stolen identity, or they might give authorities someone else’s name when they’re taken in for a crime. If someone uses your identity for such a purpose, the police could come after you.
  • If you want to protect your identity, one of the most important things you can do is keep an eye on your credit report. No matter how well you protect your information and important documents, an identity thief could target your employer or a company with which you do business and get everything he needs. Checking your credit report periodically will alert you to any strange activity so that you can take steps to avoid further damage.

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