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Chances are you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft.  The Federal Trade Commission recently estimated that 9 million people in the United States have their identity stolen each year.  When people steal your identity they can use it in a number of different ways including renting an apartment, getting a loan, applying for credit, counterfeiting checks, making purchases, or applying for government benefits.

There is a number of ways that your identity can be stolen on a daily basis.  Here is a list of the way your personal information is taken, so that you may better protect yourself:

  • People can steal your wallets or purse and also take items from the mail that could have personal information.
  • Your information can be taken by skimming your credit information through online processing.
  • Thieves can represent themselves as a financial institution to gain access to your personal information.
  • People can complete a “change-of-address” form at the post office to have your mail sent to them.
  • Your information can also be found in your garbage.

When someone takes your information it can prevent you from getting certain jobs, getting loans to expand your business, or buying new equipment.  Below you will find 15 ways for you to make sure you protect your identity.

  1. Make sure to keep an eye out for people looking over your shoulder at places like ATMs.  Make sure people are not standing too close to see your pin number.
  2. Make sure to keep up with your credit card receipts.  Make sure to keep the receipts in a safe place until your bills arrive.
  3. Shred everything, including credit card receipts, old bank statements, medical statements, utility bills, and credit card offers.
  4. Make sure to fill out all credit related form with your full name.  That way all bills come to your house the exactly the same.
  5. Monitor your accounts regularly to make sure there are no unwanted charges.
  6. Limit the number of credit cards that you carry with you.
  7. Get a credit check at least once a year to clean up any errors.
  8. Never leave bills in your mailbox for the mailman to pick up, make sure you take them to the post office.
  9. To keep your credit information going to the wrong address, when you move make sure you notify all creditors of the correct address.
  10. Protect your Social Security Number at all times.
  11. Don’t carry your Social Security Card and drivers license in the same place.
  12. Don’t give out Social Security Number or bank information through phone solicitation.
  13. If you are using an online retailer for the first time make sure to look for common trust indicators.
  14. Make sure all online transactions are done through a secure site.  Secure sites always start with https instead of http.  Also, the browser will often have a lock image in the URL field.
  15. Make sure to shop only on sites that have privacy policies.