You’re just an average person, with small savings and a regular wage. You couldn’t be a target of identity theft could you? Who would want to steal your identity?

The fact is millions of people each year are falling victim to the crime of identity theft. Average people all over the world are targets. Identities are bought and sold worldwide, where criminals use fraudulent information to steal money or commit other crimes using these stolen identities (e.g.: terrorism, violent crimes). Everyone is at risk. Billions of dollars will be lost to these thieves.

Identity theft is when someone gives another person’s details as their own. These details might be your driver’s license, Social Security number, date of birth or credit card information. The identity thief may have fraudulent documents showing your identity to be theirs, for example your birth certificate, a counterfeit license or ID card. They will then use the information gained illegally to assume this person’s identity and do one of two things – spend as much money as possible before being caught or commit a crime using that identity (armed robbery, drug trafficking, money laundering, you name it, it has been done). The most common forms of identity theft are:

1. Using a credit card illegally, opening cell phone or utility accounts fraudulently. This is known as Account Takeover. You tend to find out about this type of theft when you receive your monthly statements (if you check them). There will be a number of purchases on there you don’t remember making.

2. Opening new bank accounts in someone else’s name or passing bad checks or getting loans in another person’s name is known as Application Fraud. You may not find out about this crime for quite a while, because the monthly account statements are mailed to an address used by the thief.

Another type of common identity fraud is working under another person’s name.

Criminal identity theft can also be difficult to find out about. You may be unaware until you go to open a new bank account, apply for a job or get a phone call asking you why you didn’t turn up in court to face your drunk driving charge. Unraveling the loss of your identity can be a time-consuming, difficult and emotional task. Anyone can be a victim. Although internet fraud is on the rise, most commonly your identity will be stolen through other means.

Anyone can steal an identity. There are rings who work in the black market buying and selling people’s identities, even yours. No one is safe, but you can follow steps to safeguard against having your identity stolen.

Your identity and personal information are valuable. Keep them yours and don’t fall victim to the fastest growing white-collar crime in the twenty-first century.