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xiii INTRODUCTION Identity theft is one of the most pervasive and insidious crimes of today; a crime that can tremen- dously disrupt your life--or even put you in jail for crimes you never committed. This book explains the horrific details of the many identity theft scams that are so prevalent today. Story after story takes you into the dark world of identity theft and the dire consequences that can result from this crime that affects more and more people throughout the world. This book shows you just how vulnerable you are, but it also shows you steps you can take to protect yourself, as best you can, from becoming a victim. It also tells you what to do if you become an identity theft victim. This book also explains how the world of credit operates and your rights and responsibilities. Sure, love makes the world go round, but perhaps Joel Grey's character in the musical, Cabaret was also right when he said, "Money makes the world go round." Today, however, it is often neither love nor money that sends the world in a spin, but rather credit. Your credit affects whether you can rent an apartment, buy a home, buy a car, get a job, obtain insurance, or even take a vacation. Your credit is important. And unfortunately, the world of credit is fraught with peril. You may be discriminated against in credit because of your age, your gender, or your marital status. The privacy of your financial information may be compromised and widely disseminated to your detriment, making you more vulnerable to identity theft. Your credit card may have hidden fees, charges, and conditions buried within mountains of "fine print" that can have disastrous effects. Taking the wrong steps to repair your credit can cause you further financial victimization. Your credit report, widely used throughout the world of finance and affecting so many areas of your daily life, may be wildly inaccurate or tainted. This book may scare the hell out of you, and rightfully so. It explains just how vulnerable we all are in the world of identity theft and credit. But it also tells you what you can do about these problems. It provides specific steps you can take to protect your identity and maximize your credit.