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Identity theft is up and running in America. This very popular crime has accelerated as the economy has declined and more people are acting out of desperation on both sides of the fence. With criminals looking for an easy steal deal and consumers applying for more and more credit, the information superhighway is flooded with identity theft opportunities. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your ID.

ONE: Keep your social private. Criminals usually start with a social security number to begin fraudulent activity on your credit dime. Protect your social security number and only provide to trusted sources. Most applications ask for a SSN but its usually not required until final processing.

TWO: Rigorous credit report research. Your credit report has your SSN, present and past employers, and a list of all lines of credit in your name. It’s a field day for theft and criminals have a hall pass to take what they want once they have access to your credit report. There are monitoring services available that provide updates and push notifications anytime your report reflects activities and inquiries. At the very least, please run your credit free once a year to ensure you have not become a victim of identity theft.

THREE: Create no way to paste waste. Old bank statements and credit card offers should be shredded and thrown out. If you can legally have a bonfire in your backyard this could become a monthly event, even a party. Crosscutting also works well if you’re sitting there thinking, yea I’m never going to buy a shredder. Removing yourself from marketing lists will also decrease the amount of junk mail and offers you receive via snail mail that publicize your personal information – making less to cut, shred, or burn.

FOUR: Keeping content close. There’s no need to carry around every single piece of plastic you have. It’s no longer cool to have, like, 20 credit cards- ask Lindsay Lohan. Carry the cards and IDs you need only. Better yet, make photocopies of your ID and credit cards front and back and carry those, leaving the originals at home or in a safe place. Use the copier at the office, they’ll never know.

FIVE: Actually READ your mail. Did you know? Studies show, 95% of Americans today do NOT read their mail or monthly statements?! Always take a good once over of your monthly statements. There may be purchases you didn’t make. JP Morgan may be charging you a fee you didn’t know about. First Premier raised a lot of APRs to 79.9% - could be you, have you checked your statement?

There are nonprofit counseling services that offer free credit report reviews with certified credit counselors. Contact a credit counselor today for a free review of your credit report and see if you have been a victim of identity theft and whats affecting your credit negatively and positively in a free consultation. Nonprofit credit counseling services can improve credit while eliminating debt at lower fixed interest rates.

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