One of the worst things someone can steal from you is your identity — and it's happened to more than one person out of every six. In fact, it's become one of the biggest consumer fraud complaints.
Consumer Reports explains how you could be victimized.
Drew Seldin is one of the seven million people who had their identity stolen last year. Thieves took more than five-thousand dollars from his and his wife's bank account. They also opened charge cards in his name at seven different stores. And it didn't stop there.
"Another three or four hundred on a debit card and had ordered a checkbook with our name."
Ronald Waldman from the Federal Trade Commission says identity theft is a problem that's getting worse.
"We live in the information age, and when that information gets out there, it is more prone to be stolen."
Consumer Reports' Mari (PRON: MAH-ree) McQueen, who's just investigated identity theft, says there are many ways people can steal your private information.
"They can get it from your doctor's office. They can get it from your bank. They can get it from your tax return. They can get it from the garbage that you've thrown out, your old financial statements."
And Consumer Reports says the repercussions can be devastating.
"In the worst case scenario, where someone has opened many accounts under your name and gone interstate with the fraud, it can take you months or years to clear up."
The person who stole Drew's identity got caught and is now behind bars. But Drew still worries that his stolen information is vulnerable.
"If someone else finds it I could go through this all over again."
Consumer Reports says there are things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. Tune in tomorrow to hear what steps you can take to prevent someone from getting hold of your private information and what to do if it falls into the wrong hands.
Some insurance companies are now offering identity theft insurance. But Consumer Reports says it's often not worth the money. Policies will cover expenses connected with cleaning up the crime if you're a victim of identity theft, but seldom cover whatever money was stolen.