Identity theft is a serious crime which can deprive you of your good credit rating. Identity thieves will generally steal your personal information (such as your name, signature, PIN numbers, and other vital data and use this information to open accounts or make charges in your name. By the time you discover the crime, it may be too late. There are several ways you can protect yourself, however:
1) Read your credit report regularly. This is the best way to protect against identity theft, since unauthorized checks on your credit and unauthorized applications for loans will show up on your report.
2) Be careful about who has your personal information. Hide your PINs, passwords, and do not offer copies of your ID casually. Change passwords and PIN numbers every few years.
3) Read your mail carefully. If you notice mail arriving at your address (especially financially-related mail) all of a sudden that does not seem to be something you were expecting, follow up on this with your financial company. Similarly, if your mail suddenly stops coming, contact the post office to ensure that someone has not been sifting your mail for personal data. Once you read mail containing personal information, make sure to shred it before tossing it away.