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Stay on Your Toes

There are number of other ways in which you can stay one step ahead of those who are looking for easy prey for identity theft. One easy way is to get a locking mailbox, a simple technology that helps to prevent anyone from stealing your mail to get information about your accounts. When you pay bills via mail, though, drop the payments in the mailbox at the post office; never leave outgoing bills with checks in your home mailbox for carrier pickup.

One common scam among thieves involves calling potential victims (or sending email) requesting that the victims "verify" certain information about their accounts. Never, under any circumstances, give out info on the phone or in email to someone contacting you claiming to be an account representative. Think about it: Financial institutions invest hundreds of millions of dollars into IT systems to manage their data, including backups. Why would they need to call you to get information they already have?

Similarly, never give out password information. Period. A reputable company will never under any circumstances ask you for password information. A company that's on the level will be able to reset your password and give you the new one, not the other way around.

Stay on top of your checking and credit card accounts. Unused accounts are a godsend for identity thieves, since it's more likely that you won't be paying attention to them. Be sure to destroy all checks from old accounts, and close unused or unnecessary credit card accounts.

Finally, don't just toss "preapproved" credit applications that you get in the mail. Enterprising "dumpster divers" can use those to start getting credit in your name. Shred the applications before you throw them away; better yet, to indicate to the credit card companies that you aren't interested, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to get your name on a voluntary list for creditors to check before sending out those offers.

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