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If you stockpile as much information as you can possibly get your hands on about identity theft protection and prevention, you'll find every resource names two priorities: protect your Social Security number and keep close tabs on your credit report. Why are they such a big deal?
Without question, the worst cases of identity theft are directly attributed to thieves who able to capture a victim's Social Security number. In the eyes of the government, your SSN is your identity. With your SSN in hand, thieves can open new accounts, take out loans and even file for bankruptcy in your name, leaving your credit history in shambles. The damage can be done quickly, and it will be costly for you to clean up the mess.
Your credit report is your financial report card. Any time you want to apply for a loan or new credit cards, the lending institution will request a copy of your credit report to review your history, look for red flags, and determine if you are creditworthy, with emphasis placed on your credit scores. The better your scores, the greater your financial integrity and you'll have no problems with acquiring financing. However, if you credit report is poor, you will not only be deemed high risk, you may be denied financing. Every account you open and each late payment or default on mortgage and car loans, credit cards and utility bills will be reported and included on your credit report.
A thief with your SSN has the power to destroy your credit history. By monitoring your credit report regularly you can detect any fraudulent activity early and take steps to stop it.
For more information about identity theft monitoring and protection, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.