While everything can be fixed in the end, and you can usually get all your money back, recovering from identity theft can take months or years.
In the meantime, these are some of the things which you might not be able to do:
- Renew your drivers license or state ID
- Receive a passport
- Open a new credit card
- Finance a major purchase (car, home)
- Refinance existing credit (mortgage)
- Open a new bank account
In addition, you could face the following events:
- Harrassing phone calls / letters from debt collectors
- Increased interest rates on your credit cards
- Reduced or cancelled lines of credit
For all that, checking your credit report / score once or twice a year is probably enough. If you're planning on a major purchase, though, you should get a copy of your full credit report from all three major bureaus (Equifax, Transunion and Experian) a few months ahead of time. Even if everything on them is kosher, having that information on hand will give you a leg up when you go for financing.