I've spoken out about identity theft several times, but I've still had overwhelmed friends come to me after experiencing their own compromising situations. They're often confused, bombarded with jargon from their banks and creditors. “What are all these identity theft terms? How do I know who or what resources will actually help me?”

Terms you should know when experiencing or readying yourself against identity theft

Here's a little guide to break it all down and demystify the identity theft terms that people encounter along the way.

Identity theft: A crime involving someone obtaining another person's private information – financial details, social security numbers, etc – and making purchases or assuming debt under that person's identity.

Data breach: Known, unauthorized access to a company's data including individual information such as full names, birthdays, social security numbers, usernames and passwords. Famous, widespread data breaches have occurred with Target and Playstation.

Opt-out: A process of notifying companies that you don't want your personal information shared with other companies.

Credit reporting agency: One of three companies – Experian, Equifax or TransUnion – which keeps track of individual's credit records and reports activity to creditors such as credit card companies, banks and government entities.

Fraud alert: An alert placed on your credit report to indicate that you have been a victim of identity theft. This is supposed to alert potential creditors to closely assess applications, since they may not be legitimate.

Credit freeze: The act of “locking” your credit report so that it can't be viewed. This makes it difficult to obtain credit for new purchases, but protects individuals from ongoing negative impact from identity theft.

Credit monitoring: Monitoring of annual credit reports and scores to look for red flags such as unauthorized account openings and delinquent payments indicating that your identity may have been compromised. Credit monitoring does not prevent identity theft, but can help alert individuals when it has occurred in order to mitigate the damage.

Identity theft protection: Active protection to minimize the risk of identity theft occurrence. Companies that provide identity theft protection can work with credit bureaus to remove your name from mailing lists and monitor a broad scope of accounts, reports, and websites for personal information.

We've now partnered with the high-tech LifeLock site service to help keep an eye on our accounts. Their comprehensive Ultimate protection plan that we use monitors checking and savings accounts for unauthorized changes to personal information, monitors new bank and credit applications for our details, gives us unlimited credit score monitoring, verifies address changes on our behalf, surveys websites and file-sharing networks for our information, removes our name from pre-approved credit card offer lists, monitors payday loans and scans court records and sex offender registries for our information. Our readers can use code LifeLockSecure to get 10% off when they sign up on the Lifelock site.

Have you been the victim of identity theft? Would you know if someone was using your data?
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