Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.

Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.

Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.

Don’t give out personal information on thephone, through themail or over the

Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal financial information when using public wireless connections.

Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. If you use peer-to-peer file sharing, check the settings to make sure you’re not sharing other sensitive private
files. Visit for more information.

Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.