Protecting your identity: Understand the types of identity theft

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Identity theft encompasses any act in which your identity is used fraudulently. I'm sure you've head of credit card fraud, where someone opens an account in your name or uses your credit card number without your permission. But, that's not the only type of identity theft against which you must protect yourself.

Here are some of the most common identity theft scams:

* Phone or utilities fraud: Someone opens an account in your name or runs up charges on your existing accounts.

* Bank/finance fraud: Someone opens an account in your name and writes bad checks. Someone can take a copy of your voided check or a check used to make a payment or donation and print checks in your name with your account number. Someone can find out enough information about you to authorize electronic transfers and drain your savings. Someone can take out a loan in your name proving their identity with a fake ID.

* Government documents fraud: Someone can get a driver's license or government ID in your name and put his or her picture on it.

* Someone can use your Social Security number when they apply for a job or a loan.

* A rental contract or medical services can be set up in your name.

* Your name can be given to a police officer during an arrest. When you don't show up in court, a warrant can be issued in your name.

All these types of identity theft have happened to people. If any type of identity theft happens to you it can take years to clear your good name. Your best weapon against identity theft is to avoid exposing yourself to it. Read my post about reducing exposure to identity theft to find what you can do to help avoid exposing yourself to identity theft.

Lita Epstein has written 20 books including the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score."

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