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Simple Ways to Protect Yourself  From Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing
crimes in the world. One out of every four households will be plagued by this
crime and a new victim's freedom and privacy will be compromised every 4
seconds. Thankfully, preventing identity theft from creating havoc in your life
is not as hard as it sounds.

The most important thing is to understand
identity theft and how it occurs. Contrary to popular belief, most identity
thieves are not computer hackers. Less than 12% of the identity crimes that take
place actually originate online. Instead, thieves use your garbage, stolen
credit cards, and other traditional methods to access your personal information
and assume your identity.

Preventing identity theft from occurring is the
only way to protect yourself from this emotionally and financially devastating
crime. Most victims are not even aware that their identity was stolen until they
are denied credit, housing, or employment because of the crime and less than 5%
of the thieves are actually arrested, leaving victims to spend hundreds of
hours, not to mention thousands of dollars, to repair the damage on their own.

Protect yourself from the horrors of identity
theft with these simple tips:

Guard your personal data. Avoid giving your
social security or bank account numbers to people you don't know. Never give out
information over the phone or computer unless you initiated the contact. Keep
credit cards, account numbers, pins, and passwords in a safe place at home.

Invest in a shredder. A small home office paper
shredder is a must if you hope to prevent identity theft. Shred bank statements,
pre-approved offers, and other sensitive documents before throwing them away.
It's a good idea to opt out of special credit offers that come in the mail.

Protect your mailbox. Make a habit of mailing
checks and other personal data directly from the post office rather than leaving
it in your home mailbox and try to check your mail as quickly as possible to
prevent mail theft, a common method for identity thieves.

Avoid using checks, whenever possible. Not only
is all the personal data a criminal needs to assume your identity printed right
on the face of your check, your bank account number and the bank routing number
are in plain view. This is an ideal opportunity for a thief.

The best way to prevent identity theft is to stay
active and aware. Review your bank accounts and credit card statements each
month for any suspicious activity and immediately investigate anything that may
seem odd. Watch for your statements to come in the mail and contact your
financial institution if it is not received on time. Many banks offer electronic
statements that can help you protect yourself. A Credit Monitoring Service can
save you time and trouble by continuously monitoring and reviewing your credit
reports for you and notifying you of any changes, new accounts, or other
activity not initiated by you.


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