Identity theft occurs when someone surrepticiously obtains enough personal information about you that they can commit acts they only you should be legally be able to do. For instance, people obtain enough information about you to get a fake driver license in your name. This in turn will allow them to open a bank account in your name to launder money or any number of things. Or they may also get a credit card and leave you with the bills, or commit some other loan fraud. In some cases, a person with a criminal record may use your good name to get a job, or they may use it on any variety of scams. Occasionally, they may commit crimes in your name.
There are a number of steps you can take to avoid identity theft. One very important thing you should do is not carry your social security card around on your person. Having your other forms of identity do not actually pose that much of a threat, but a social security number allows criminals to gain access to important personal data. Another thing you can do is be very prudent about what information you divulge on the Internet. Internet theft of personal information is called 'phishing' and it has become a big problem in recent years. Be wary about emails that appear to be from your bank that say you need to submit your personal data. Phishers can create websites that look identical to the actual bank site.
If you find that your identity has been stolen, you will need an attorney to undo what the identity thief has done. Make sure you know how to protect yourself before it happens and the steps to take if it happens to you.
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