Identity Theft

Every day you share personal information about yourself by writing a check at the grocery store, charging clothing in a department store, purchasing a book online or filling out a form at the doctor's office. Each transaction requires you to share some personal information: your driver's license number, credit card number, or Social Security number. Although businesses and law enforcement are taking some key initiatives to combat identity theft, like it or not, the fact is that it is up to you to take reasonable steps to help protect your personal information.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation. Identity thieves capture information about you and use it to commit fraud, steal your money, fraudulently charge items to your accounts or even create new accounts.

What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. Victims range from everyday people to celebrities like Tiger Woods and Rosie O'Donnell.

Identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information from another person and fraudulently uses it to obtain credit, goods, and services. An example: someone steals your credit card and buys a new TV for himself. Although a large percentage of identity theft is committed by a family member or friend of the victim, more and more the crime is being committed by professionals who belong to nationwide, even international, crime rings.

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline gets nearly 2,000 calls a day.

Financial Effects
Identity theft is costly to businesses and may be costly to victims. The U.S. Secret Service estimated the cost of identity theft at $745 million in 1997. According to a Privacy Rights Clearinghouse study in 2000, the average consumer victim spends 175 hours and $800 resolving identity theft problems. It takes two or more years for victims to clear up all resulting problems.

It is important for you to know about identity theft and what to do if you become a victim.

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