The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines identity theft as "someone appropriating your personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft." Typically, an identity thief steals your Social Security number or other personal identification, and uses it to obtain a credit card in your name or to commit some other crime.Be especially careful with sensitive personal information.
A nationwide survey by Javelin Research found that found identity theft declined in 2007. Javelin estimates that 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2007, down from 8.4 million in 2006 and 10.1 million in 2003.
Your Social Security number should not be requested except by an employer, government agency, lender or credit bureau. If that information falls into the wrong hands, it can be used by someone to impersonate you in order to steal from your accounts or to steal from others in your name. Many states no longer use Social Security numbers on drivers' licenses. Some states offer random numbers as alternatives and bar merchants from asking consumers to put their social security numbers on checks or credit card slips.
Check your credit report regularly. Once a year should be enough, but you may want to check it more frequently if you believe that someone else has impersonated you in order to get credit or other benefits in your name. ...The Congress of the United States asked the Federal Trade Commission to provide information to consumers about identity theft and to take complaints from those whose identities have been stolen.
If you've been a victim of identity theft, you can call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338, or file a complaint online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/filing-a-report.html.