Identity theft occurs when your personal information (anything from your Social Security or bank account numbers to your name and address) is stolen and the thief is able to use your information to commit fraud or theft, potentially damaging your credit record and good name in the process. The affect on the lives of victims of identity theft can be devastating. When identities are stolen, victims can spend months or years trying to clean up the horrible mess.
The most common examples of identity theft include credit card fraud, phone or utility fraud, bank fraud, employment-related fraud, government document or benefit fraud and loan fraud.
Identity theft is not strictly an online crime. Some of the most successful thieves employ low-tech methods such as stealing your mail, checking your garbage for receipts and statements or grabbing your purse or wallet.