By Susan M. Keenan …©2010

Avoiding identity theft is not an easy task these days. Identity thieves have gotten quite clever at what they do. Plus, the laws surrounding identity theft do not actually protect consumers in the way that they should. Therefore, it simply might not be possible to avoid identity theft forever. The next best thing is to simply avoid it for as long as you can.

Protect Snail Mail

If you live in a rural area, you should avoid placing important mail in your mailbox for the carrier to pick up. Thieves have been known to steal mail directly from the mailbox. Take your outgoing mail to the post office and mail it from there for the safest strategy.

Always remove your mail from your mailbox as soon as possible to prevent thieves from having easy access to it.

Shred unwanted credit card applications, billing statements, and mail with identifying information on it before you throw them into the trash.

Never include any of your important account numbers in snail mail unnecessarily. If your child wishes to borrow your account to make a purchase, give him the account number in person or make the purchase for him.

If you go away on a vacation, remember to call your local post office and have your mail delivery temporarily stopped. If thieves can see your mail piling up, they know that it is quite likely to contain some important papers or information.

Protect Your Wallet

Most people carry way too much information in their wallets. The best way to protect this information is to carry less of it.

Sign the back of each new credit card, debit card, or store card that you receive as soon as it arrives in the mail. Many stores, shops, and businesses still check that the signature on the receipt matches the signature on the credit card.

Never carry your social security number or anyone’s social security number in your wallet.

Never carry sensitive passwords or codes in your wallet.

Some stores use handwritten receipts that include your credit card number in full. Never store these inside your wallet as the information could be stolen along with your identity.

Protect Your Cell Phone

Avoid labels that identify the people whose phone number’s you store in your wallet. Identity thieves can use this information to figure out important details about you that they can use to steal your identity.

Protect Important Papers at Home

Purchase a fireproof safe to store most of your important financial documents and identification cards. While determined thieves can break into safes or steal them, locked safes can act as deterrents protecting your information from harm.

Invest in a safety deposit box to store important papers and documents that you do not need to have on a regular basis.

Protect Your Credit

Never lend your credit cards, store cards, debit cards, or account numbers to anyone. Once that card is out of your hands, you no longer have control of it.

Avoid sending your credit or financial account numbers through instant messaging services or emails over the Internet. It is easy enough for identity thieves to intercept this information.

Use a credit monitoring service to protect your personal credit information.

You should report suspicious activity immediately. Check your credit report at least three times annually using one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax.

Intro: Avoiding identity theft might be easier said than done. However, there are several strategies that you can use to minimize the danger of falling victim to this crime.