TIME.com: Identity Theft: Could it Happen to You? New statistics suggest it may be only a matter of time. A security expert offers tips on protecting yourself
Imagine this: Someone out there knows your name, your credit card information, your bank account numbers and your social security number. They are pretending to be you — running up outrageous bills, even committing crimes — and as far as your banks, creditors and various authorities are concerned, they are you.
It may sound like the plotline of a hackneyed Hollywood thriller, but hundreds of thousands of Americans may have already been victims of identity theft. Last year alone, the Federal Trade Commission logged more than 85,000 complaints from people whose identities had been pirated. That may only be the tip of the iceberg; some consumer advocates suggest as many as 750,000 identities are stolen each year.
What, exactly, is identity theft? How does it happen? And how can you protect yourself against this growing trend? TIME.com spoke with Ted Claypoole, a technology lawyer concentrating in financial services and security at the firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Privacy Digest]