In 2011, identity fraud increased by 13%, affecting more than 11.6 million adults in the United States. Thieves use a variety of tactics to illegally obtain your personal information – from stealing your mail to finding your personal files on the Internet. Use these tips to prevent identity theft and avoid becoming a victim of one of the fastest growing consumer crimes in the nation:

Secure your statements

Stolen mail containing personal information is one of the most common sources of identity theft. You can decrease this risk by going paperless. Online banking allows you to view your statements, pay your bills, and closely monitor your account activity electronically. For the paper records you do receive, such as credit card receipts, properly store them and periodically shred what you don’t need. 

Monitor your finances

Note when your credit card bills and other important documents usually arrive each month. Look at your statements regularly and reconcile your accounts to keep an eye out for charges you don’t recognize. If you notice that your bill didn’t arrive, call your credit card company.

Protect your password

While it’s tempting to use a password that’s simple, easy to remember, and consistent across all of your accounts, these shortcuts can make you an easier target for identity thieves online. Avoid easily identifiable information, like your child’s name or your birthday. Use a mix of capital letters, numbers, and other special characters whenever possible. Including symbols like @, &, or ! in your password further decreases your chances of getting hacked.

Dealing with identity theft is stressful and time consuming. By taking steps to protect your identity, you can prevent the likelihood of identity theft happening to you. Taking steps to protect your good credit – and your good name – can help reduce your risks.

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