Identity theft happens when a criminal illegally obtains your personal information to steal money from your accounts, open new credit cards, apply for loans, rent apartments and commit other crimes — all using your identity. Because your personal information can be illegally used in multiple ways, identity theft can cause financial loss, damage to your credit and result in a lengthy resolution process.
Although identity theft is often considered a high-tech crime, only affecting those who shop or do business online, the majority of identity theft occurs offline. What might surprise you is that identity theft crimes are often committed by people you know or have contact with; anyone with access to your checkbook, credit cards or statements. Common tactics used by identity thieves include stealing wallets or purses, intercepting your mail or rummaging through your garbage (dumpster diving).