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Protecting Yourself Against Theft

Theft is theft, whether the target is money, jewels, or information. Theft of personal information can occur in any place where the information exists. The key to protection is to be aware of where your information exists. Are your bills and checkbook stored together? Are they stored in a safe or lockable file cabinet? Are they stored in an obvious location? Most people have a desk or other location where all this information and paperwork might be expected to reside. This might be convenient, but it also makes it easier for a criminal to gather everything at once. Consider the purchase of a safe to protect this personal information, as well as your other valuables.

Unfortunately, your SSN has become one of the most critical pieces of information for obtaining credit. It is treated as a unique identifier and is the single most valuable piece of information a thief can obtain. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and don't have your SSN printed on your checks. Don't use your SSN as your driver's license number. Many states have made this a default feature; it's up to the consumer to opt out of this unsafe practice.

When sending mail (especially bill payments), use post office mailboxes. Don't leave outgoing mail in your residential mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up. It leaves important information unprotected and therefore an easy target. When you're headed out for a vacation, make arrangements to have someone pick up your mail daily, or have the post office hold your mail until you return.

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