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Identity theft is when someone obtains personally identifying information from another individual without permission, then uses that information to assume that person's identity. Perpetrators of identity theft may use the information they steal to take control of bank accounts, open new credit cards, commit crimes, perpetrate fraud, carry out transactions, and make purchases in the victim's name.
Identity theft is a serious threat. It can compromise your name, Social Security number, bank and credit card account numbers, medical record and health insurance information, and other personally identifying data. It is also on the rise.
According to a 2014 report from Javelin Strategy and Research, 13.1 million people in the U.S. became victims of identity fraud in 2013, an increase of 500,000 over 2012. Data breaches were the main source of fraud that year, with one in three people who received notifications of a data breach discovering their identities were being used fraudulently. Someone in America becomes a victim of identity fraud every two seconds.
Identity theft has deep financial repercussions that can affect a person's credit, financial security, taxes, insurance, and overall financial health for years to come. Your best protection is to educate yourself about identity fraud and be on the alert for signs someone has accessed your personal information so you can take prompt action.