On the scale of possible crimes, most people probably aren’t thinking about identity theft at the top of the list. But when you break down what actually happens to a victim of identity theft, the reality is a lot scarier than you might realize.

One of the worst things about discovering you’ve been a victim is not knowing where to start or how far the damage has gone. Imagine a small snowball you can hold in your hand. It’s tiny enough to handle on your own. When more snow is packed on the snowball, it gets larger and becomes too heavy to manage on your own. As even more snow is loaded on, it becomes too much, too fast, and now you are overwhelmed.

The same can be true of identity theft. You start out by learning one credit card was affected, and thought it was as easy as calling the company. After resolving this, you later get denied a car loan because of your credit score. A new credit card has since been opened in your name, and you have an additional $10,000 in debt you have never paid. Eventually, you find that your Social Security number was used to open hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans.

One single instance of credit card fraud is easy in comparison, but it’s a little harder to tackle when there are dozens of credit cards in your name. Unfortunately, when a small problem grows so big, it can easily become a heavy burden on your personal life, family, and finances. Let the Identity Theft Resource Center help you melt that snowball and reduce the impact of this crime, both now and down the road.

You do not have to be overwhelmed, and clearing your good name shouldn’t be a full-time job. That’s why the ITRC operates a free live call center at 888-400-5530 and maintains a complete library of resources about identity theft, cybersecurity, scams, privacy and fraud. Our victim assistance professionals will listen and respond with understanding, then point you in the right direction with action steps to undo the damage.

If you found this information useful, pay it forward by donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to further our mission and continue to help victims of identity theft at no-cost.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.