There’s a new, alarming twist on identity theft: Extreme Identity Theft. That’s where criminals are doing a lot more than using your information to get a credit card. They’re literally living as you: And getting jobs, going to the doctor, buying homes, and even filing tax returns – all while claiming to be you!

Like one kindergarten teacher we read about. When she applied for a home loan, she was turned down because of outstanding bad credit in another state. A state she’d never even been to! It turns out, an imposter had used her name, Social Security number and date of birth to get a driver’s license, buy a house, and several cars. The faker also got a job and financed the birth of two babies – under her name and social security number! The imposter even went to the Social Security Administration, and claimed she was the victim of identity theft! She’s now in jail, but it’ll take the real woman another two years to clear her name.

So, why would someone steal another person’s complete identity? A few reasons: Their own credit may be bad – they may have arrests on their record. Or they may not be a citizen, and need someone else’s ID to live and work in this country. Todd Feinman is a security expert. And he says that once an extreme identity thief has your name and Social Security number, it’s easy to find your address and date of birth. And that’s all the information they need to literally become you. And it can go undetected for years, because most of us don't check our credit reports.

So, take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Don't store anything on your computer that includes your Social Security number, like tax returns or medical records.
  • Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  • And check your credit report at least once a year. It's free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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