Identity theft is when someone uses your personally identifying or financial information. This includes: your name, Social Security number, Banking information or credit card number, without your permission. The information is used for financial gain, to commit crimes or fake their own identity. 
Over 9 million people each year in the United States are the victims of Identity Theft. Some victims get this resolved quickly while other victims may never get things cleared up.

There are many ways people become victims. Any papers with valuable information (name, account numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, etc.) can supply what the scammers need. This includes papers put out for trash or recycling. Phishing through email or pop-up windows that ask for information. Skimming is where an electronic device is used to obtain your credit card number when you are using your card at a store. Some will simply steal wallets and purses. Some will phone victims claiming to be your bank, place of work, utility company, store,charity, etc. and simply ask you for it under false pretenses. In rare but growing instances they will put in a change of address so all mail is directed to where they can pick it up.

The only protection is to watch your credit card/bank statements and question any charges you do not recognize. You should also periodically check your Credit Report with the three reporting agencies. You are allowed to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion once every 12 months from the government site: What is recommended is to get a report from one of the agencies each four months. Say Experian in January; Equifax in  May; TransUnion in September; and the following January you can get one from Experian again. is the only legitimate source for a Free report. Anything else is a company to sell you a service. Most of the services offered are of no value.

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