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Identity credit theft is a rapidly growing crime in the United States. Every year, the number of people that experience identity theft increases. In fact, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of cases of identity theft in 2006 was more than four times historical highs.

Strategy #1: Protect yourself from the risks of “pre-approved” offers

Many consumers are unaware of the lurking dangers surrounding identity theft. In fact, your personal information may frequently be sold to other companies – by the very credit bureaus that track your loans and payment history! If you receive “pre-approved” credit cards in the mail, then your identity and credit information are being sold to third parties. All an identity thief has to do is find one of these “pre-approved” credit cards in your mailbox or trash cans – and instantly assume your identity and financial wherewithal.

In order to reduce your risks of identity theft, you must remove yourself from the system of information exchange. You need to set up an “opt-out” option with all three bureaus and keep the option regularly renewed, or else financial institutions will instantly begin sending you the “pre-approved” offers once again. For busy individuals, or for those looking for peace of mind, there are identity protection companies, such as Lifelock, who will automatically keep your credit and identity protected. They will initiate the “opt-out” option and keep track of its renewal dates, ensuring that your identity is not at risk.

Strategy #2: Treat your social security number like gold

Make certain that you leave no information behind. It does not take much information for an identity thief to access your accounts. These thieves are professionals, specializing in the tricks of the identity theft trade. To keep your identity and credit safe, you must protect all private information, ensuring that it is kept private.

Never give out your social security number to a stranger, unknown company, or for unnecessary purposes. For example, although medical offices will ask for your social security number for their files, by law, you are not required to disclose that information.

In addition, be weary of companies that ask for your social security number. There have been numerous cases of identity theft from employees who give their social security numbers to disreputable brick and mortar and internet companies. For example, if you have been offered a telecommute position through an internet company, you should conduct ample research before submitting your W9. You should request to withhold the W9 with your social security number until you have received your first payment, if the amount is under $600. Reputable sites understand your reluctance, while dishonest ones will protest.

Protect the information of your birthplace, account numbers, passwords, and mother’s maiden name as well. Not releasing your information is the best identity theft protection strategy.

Strategy #3: Erase all traces of personal information

Shred your statements and identifying information before you discard it. Your garbage is another man’s gold. The phrase is an old adage, but never more true than it is today with the perils of identity theft. Rummaging through a bag of garbage can reveal more than what you ate for supper. If your documents are not shredded, it can supply a seemingly endless source of income for the cunning con.

Strategy #4: Do not take the bait of the Phish

Watch for emails that come from Ebay, Paypal, or your financial institution asking for personal information. These letters will look legitimate, but you need to understand that they already have information about you. Close the email and use their site address or phone number to verify the email. The schemes are called phishing and are designed to find out your most personal information.

Strategy #5: Protect your young ones

Everyone hopes that someday their child will grow up, go to college, get married, have 2.2 children, and buy a home. Unfortunately, your beloved children may have a lifelong problem if their credit is ruined before they reach the age of three.

How can a child have a bad credit report? Today more than ever, there are millions of identities stolen from minors. These children are prime candidates because they not only possess a social security number, but their credit is seldom checked.

While the theft of a minor’s identity is not as prevalent as that of adults, it does happen with regularity. There are several places that a thief could access your child’s social security number. If your computer is not protected with anti-spyware, even something as wonderful as a purchase of a life insurance policy for your child or a savings account can create a nightmare for your child later on in life. Thankfully, there are credit protection companies, such as Lifelock, that offer a service for minors as well – ensuring that your financial future stays bright, untarnished by identity thieves.

Strategy #6: Consider professional expertise

For many individuals, busy work schedules and family obligations overshadow the steps you need to take to protect your identity. Not everyone remembers to check their credit each quarter, monitor for any unusual activity or addresses, or watch for unauthorized checks on their credit.

For busy people, or those who want true peace of mind, a professional identity protection service is a worthy investment. Lifelock, one of the premier identity protection companies, automatically monitors your credit and ensures that your identity is safe from the dangerous hands of thieves.

The steps that you take to maintain a watchful eye on your credit can prevent thousands of hours and dollars that it takes to repair your financial standing. Be vigilant in your attempt to prevent thieves from taking away what you worked a lifetime to build.

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