Identity theft is a crime where someone else steals your personal information for their individual gain. They use it to obtain credit, purchase merchandise and pay for services. Some use it to pose as you. Items commonly stolen by identity thieves are social security numbers, driver’s license, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, insurance information, medical information and other items that prove your identity. The internet has made identity theft easier to commit the crime undetected because most transactions require no personal interaction. A thief can do a lot of damage in the matter of just hours online.

Most people are surprised to learn that the internet is not the main source of personal information theft. When thieves do use the internet steal information, people usually unknowingly hand the information over in response to an unsolicited e-mail. The majority of criminals still access the information they want by going through your trash. Other methods include watching over your shoulder when you present identification or as you fill out personal information forms. Most people think of identity theft as a financial crime.

The fact is there are several areas of theft. Some other areas include insurance, medical and criminal among others. Children are one sector of the population that can allow thieves more time to wreck havoc. Realistically, a child does not commonly look over any credit transactions or actively participate in the protection of their personal information. The earliest most children will take part in any financial transactions is sixteen. Children may become aware when they try to purchase a car or auto insurance that a thief has been using their identity for years. One way to combat this threat is by signing up for the best credit monitoring service you can afford, so you are alerted of any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

Financial damage is the most prominent. However, they may receive medical treatment in your name or use your insurance information for payment. Others may commit additional crimes in your name leaving you with a criminal history to unravel. Thieves can file taxes in your name and receive a refund before you even get your W-2 forms. Some criminals take personal information from several people and combine them. Instead of targeting one person, their crimes affect several at the same time.

Identity thieves can victimize anyone. There are things you can do to make it more difficult for criminals to attack you. Shred or burn every document that contains personal information. That includes the hard drive on your computer and USB storage. Check your credit report on a routine basis for any fraudulent activity. When you are presenting personal information in public, remain alert. Make sure no one is in a physical position to obtain any of the transaction information. Do not give out information by phone or online. If you do, make certain that you know who is requesting the information. When in doubt, do not take the chance.