Identity theft happens when someone takes your name and personal information (like your social security number) and uses it without your permission to do things like open new accounts, use your existing accounts, or obtain medical services. An identity thief might even present your name and identity to law enforcement officers when he is arrested.
Identity theft can have serious consequences for you and your family. It can negatively affect your credit, get you sued for debts that are not yours, result in incorrect and potentially health-threatening information being added to your medical records, and may even get you arrested.
Identity theft can happen to anyone, but you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Read How to Help Prevent Identity Theft and What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
You may be a victim of identity theft if you:
- Receive credit cards that you did not apply for.
- Find unauthorized charges on your bank or credit card statements.
- Receive bills or collection letters from companies that you never heard of or for accounts you don’t recognize.
- Receive rejection letters for loans you did not apply for.
- Receive notices reflecting that you traveled to, lived in or did business in a jurisdiction to which you have no connections.
- Get calls from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you did not buy.
- Fail to receive your bills or regular mail. (The ID thief may have changed your billing address!)
- Receive unexpected notices from the IRS about failing to report all your income or informing you that they received more than one income tax return in your name.