Identity theft and fraud is when someone illegally obtains someone else's personal information such as social security number and possibly credit card information for the purposes of some sort of economic gain.
Besides social security number and credit card info, other personal pieces of information that a someone might steal to commit identity fraud are your bank account number and telephone calling card number. The stealing of this information leads to a number of crimes such as illegally transferring funds from your bank account, using your telephone card to make phone calls and the worst case scenario, using your credit card number to run up large debts on your account. This is the most common type of identity fraud. Some people even go as far as committing crimes using a person's personal identification such as stolen car and drivers license. Then when the police go knocking on a door it's your door they end up knocking on. Sometimes the damage done is so extensive that the person's credit rating is destroyed and in many cases the person's life is in ruins.
So what does one do to prevent against identity theft? Actually there are a number of precautions you can take that, while they don't guarantee it won't happen to you, can greatly decrease the chances of you being a victim of identity fraud.
For starters, be very stingy about giving out your personal information to anyone, especially if they are asking for it for something that seems like it may be a scam, like if somebody tells you that they've got a sure fire way for you to make $10,000 real fast and all you have to do is give them your credit card number. This should be a warning sign that should light up the sky for you. Don't ever fall for these scams.
If someone calls you at home and says they are from your bank and need some information from you, this is most likely an attempt to get your personal info as the bank should have everything it needs on file already.
If someone calls you on the phone and says you are eligible to win some terrific prize and to qualify for it all you need to do is give them your credit card number, again, this is most likely a scam as there is no reason for you to have to give out that information if you have truly won a prize. Never fall for this one.
If you're traveling, only take what you absolutely must have with you. It's best to get travelers checks instead of carrying around a credit card. Travelers checks are insured and you won't end up running up a big debt from a lost or stolen credit card. Also, the less ID you carry with you the less chance that it can be gotten from you unless someone cracks open your head and drains the info from you.
The bottom line is to just be careful with who you trust and what you trust them with. By doing this you stand the best chance of avoiding being the victim of identity fraud.