Identity theft is when someone else uses your personal information—such as your name, Social Security number, or address—without your permission for an unlawful purpose. They may try to open credit card or utility accounts, make charges on existing accounts, or get loans, blank checks, or home mortgages. This can ruin your credit and leave you with hundreds—even thousands—of dollars in debt! Once your identity is stolen, it can take months or even years to clear up what was damaged. In California, identity theft is a felony crime and carries very serious consequences.