Identity theft is in the news a lot these days. It is a rapidly growing type of crime. It can damage your credit and it can cost you lots of time and money to solve the problems that identity theft can create.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. The first step in avoiding problems is making sure that your personal financial information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Beyond that, you also want to make sure that no one has got your information without your knowledge and are trying to do something illegal with it. Here are ten tips to help you avoid identity theft:

1. Protect your Social Security number. If a criminal gets their hands on this, they can use it to access other information, like your credit report or bank accounts.

2. Shred old financial data. Everything from bank statements to pre-approved credit card offers can be misused by criminals. Shredding everything will prevent this.

identity theft

3. Get off of mailing lists. Every time you find yourself on a mailing list request that you are removed. This is especially important for credit card offers and the like.

4. The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service are the services used by banks and other marketers to get your contact information. They have name-removal services that you can request.

5. Only carry the identity cards and credit cards that you need. The more you have on you, the more chance there is of losing a card. Leave the cards you don’t need in a safe place.

6. Make photocopies of all your credit cards and identification. Copy both the front and the back of each card. Put the copies in a safe place. This will help you in case you lose your wallet.

7. If you are mailing checks, take them right to the post office. If you leave them in your mailbox to be picked up they can fall into the wrong hands. A criminal can modify a check easily.

8. Look over your credit card statement and bank statement every month to make sure that there are no unexpected or unexplained charges on them. Follow up with any discrepancies immediately.

9. Be careful who you give your credit card information to over the phone. Be sure that you are giving it to someone you trust or the information can be misused.

10. Use a credit report monitoring service. It will let you know if someone applies for credit in your name. If it isn’t you, you can follow up immediately.