What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
It is estimated that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. 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. 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.
Identity theft is a federal crime. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 makes it a federal crime when anyone "knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of the Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law."