Have you ever misplaced important personal documents such as a credit card, Social Security card, bank checks or other such items?

If so, you know the temporary panic that can set in, not knowing if someone else has recovered them. While you would like to think most individuals would return the item or items to you or the institution which they came from, that certainly is not always the case. Worse yet, is when that information has purposely been taken from you.

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Identity theft crimes continue to plague many people nationwide, ranking as the top complaint among consumers as recently as 2014.

Despite enhanced efforts to curb identity theft, many consumers remain unprepared to prevent it from happening to them.

Take the Fight to Identity Theft Thieves

For consumers to truly turn the tide in the battle against identity theft thieves, it all starts with having a plan in place to thwart criminals.

Start by looking at your personal identity practices, looking to see where you are doing a good job of protecting your identity and where you need improvement.

With myriad of personal financial data you have out there (credit cards, bank accounts, tax information, SSN etc.), protecting your personal data is not a choice, but a necessity.

Are you using an identity theft protection provider’s product to keep criminals locked out?

There are a number of such providers out there who can assist you, but knowing who best suits your needs can be taxing. Having someone who does the identity security homework for you (click here, website for example) oftentimes proves to be of great benefit.

Even with proper protection in place, you still need to practice sound financial data management in order to lessen the chances of becoming the next identity theft victim.

You can do this by:

  • Not giving out data to the wrong people – Don’t be surprised if identity theft thieves try posing as someone you know. Their hope is that when they send you an infected attachment over the Internet and you will oblige and download it. Once that happens, malware can make itself present on your computer, especially if you do not have anti-virus software in place. If any email requests seem even the least bit suspicious, avoid opening attachments. The same holds true for any questionable requests for information you receive via regular mail or over the phone;
  • Not leaving credit cards and other documents sitting around – Admit it, you’ve likely gone out to eat and signed a credit card receipt, then got up and left the table. A better practice would be to make sure the waiter/waitress takes the eatery’s copy with them and it is not left to sit on the table until the next patrons arrive. The same holds true if you are staying in a hotel. Avoid leaving a credit card or other personal financial data sitting around in the room while you are out and about;
  • Not advertising you are away – Even though online identity theft crimes continue to be a major problem, consumers also need to focus on their actions at home away from the computer. Letting mail pile-up in an outdoor mailbox while away is an invitation to trouble. Even if you are home, think twice about receiving credit card information/statements, checks etc. in the mail. It only takes seconds for a criminal to go on your property and grab mail from your box. When he or she does that, they can access a treasure trove of financial information on you;
  • Not using unsecure computers – If you travel for fun and/or business, do you take a laptop with you? Whether you use your laptop or a hotel/motel desktop, make sure you have a secure server connection. It is quite common for identity theft thieves to tap into unsecure WiFi connections, allowing them to swipe personal and business data.

When it comes to keeping ahead of identity theft criminals, you can have the best security system software providers in the world, yet still fall victim.

Make sure that along with having the right security provider, you also practice smart and safe financial disclosures on and offline.