When it comes to identity theft, legal watchdogs say it virtually means "good riddance" to your good name and credit, and getting mistakes on your record fixed is not easy. In fact, it's much easier for someone to steal your identity in the first place.
"They can steal your mail, dumpster diving. When we get a lot of pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, they have our names on them. Someone could get that and they could fill it out and therefore opening it in your name, but they could put their address on it," said Susan Cosgrove of the MSU Extension Service.
Cosgrove says one of the fastest growing ways for identity theft is fairly new and involves a phone with a built-in camera. She says these are being used not only to take pictures but your identity. They can be used to steal information on a check or driver's license.
"It could be your Social Security number. It could be your date of birth," said Cosgrove, "some personal information about you that they obtained and then they are able to establish credit."
The "credit" is illegal but it could still leave you thousands of dollars in debt. To combat this, Cosgrove says you should never have your social security number printed on your checks or driver's license and always shred any mail that might include vital personal information.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, you should first contact law enforcement officials in your area, your creditors and the three major credit report companies. The sooner you do this, the better. After all, credit problems are easier to prevent than to fix.
For more information on identity theft, you may call Susan Cosgrove at (601) 635-2268.