Identity theft can be one of the most devastating financial crimes that a person can suffer. The crime happens when someone uses information about you for his or her financial gain without your permission. Whenever a person has their identity stolen, the criminal can break into their bank accounts, use their active credit cards to purchase goods and services, and acquire new credit cards. Once a person has his or her identity stolen, it can take years to recover from the theft. However, there are some steps you can take that will help protect your identity and your assets.
One of the most important things to do is to protect your Social Security Number (SSN). This number is what the government, employers, and financial institutions use to track your financial life. The SSN should be kept in a safe place, and the number should be used carefully. Do not give it out to anyone you don't trust. Other things to consider are your billing statements, credit reports, receipts, and bank statements. Look for unauthorized charges on your credit cards, and for new credit information on your credit reports. The sooner you detect any unusual financial activity, the easier it will be to repair the damage.
Identity theft can affect more than your credit scores or bank accounts though. Some of the less apparent effects can be losing employment opportunities since many employers use credit information as a screening tool for new hires. With your identity information, people can compromise your income tax returns. It also can prevent victims from opening new credit accounts, or making a major purchase. The identity theft issues must be cleaned up in order to move forward with any large purchases and get the best interest rates. So take care of your financial identity, and you can reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim.