Protecting your identity: Understand the types of identity theft

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.