Unfortunately, it is getting a lot easier for criminals to steal our identities. Not only are there any number of unscrupulous people (who may, for instance, work at motels, hospitals, real estate offices, brokerages, and so on) who collect bits of our identity info and sell it, but there are entire corporations that routinely, as their main business, gather all the information on us they can, using sophisticated supercomputer techniques as well as old-fashioned methods of sleuthing, compile this data by the scores of millions, and then make it available to customers that may range from insurance and credit companies to the federal government (ostensibly looking for terrorists and other criminals), and so on. Frequently, these data files are not kept properly secured and become available to hackers, who then may sell the files to the highest black market bidders. There is little other use they would have for the information than to steal and use our identities and credit.
While many may still see such discussions as paranoid (According to Money magazine recently, at least 21% of adults think there is no reason to be concerned about the theft of their identity - of course perhaps at least 21% of us have no credit to be stolen!), in the last five months alone there have already been over 49,000,000 illegal disclosures of personal identity information on US citizens from such data collection companies.
If we find a criminal use of identity has taken place, it is our responsibility, not that of the credit companies, to initiate corrective action to get our credit reports purged of the thieves' bad credit practices at our expense. It is true that, once we have eventually proven the fraudulent purchases, loans, or services were not ours, the credit companies are required to correct their records, but this may not be easily achieved or promptly done. It is said that, the sooner the identity theft is found, the better. When a long period of such fraud has gone by, the victim whose identity has been stolen may need to assume a new full-time job, filling out paperwork, keeping careful records, doing many follow-ups, and perhaps working through agencies and lawyers for several weeks or months before the problem has been resolved, sometimes at much expense.