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Some identity theft crimes are simple to sort out and stop, especially if they are related to credit card fraud. Closing an account and opening a new one may be all that's necessary to erase the damage and prevent new incidents from occurring. However, if we stay true to the definition of identity theft, where thieves assume your identity and create a whole new history in your name, the crime becomes much more serious. You may find your record shows you've defaulted on home or car loans, filed for bankruptcy or have a criminal record with a warrant out for your arrest.
Information and credentials used for identity theft are often referred to as “breeder” documents, and they are a gold mine to identity thieves. That's because these forms of identification, such as birth certificates, social security numbers, and date of birth, can be used over and over again to “breed” new accounts, gain credit, acquire a driver's license, secure a passport, and on infinitum, creating a completely new history – and financial nightmare – for the unsuspecting victim.
The time spent trying to unravel the resulting wide-reaching web of deceit and falsification could take months and, for the most serious offenses, it could take years. Understanding how identity theft occurs and learning ways to protect your sensitive information is the first step to prevention.
For more information on identity theft, precautions you can take to guard against it, and what to do if you become a victim, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) web site.