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Five simple steps to avoid identity theft

Posted at 3:39 PM, Mar 07, 2014
and last updated 2016-12-06 20:04:40-05

You've heard about security breaches lately involving the Maricopa Community Colleges and major retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus.

A lot of you are letting me know you're victims of identity theft.

Judy emailed me saying "someone opened a $2000 credit card in my name."

I've even heard of people getting into systems and taking tax refunds away before they're legitimately filed.

So, how do you protect yourself?

This one is obvious, but important: Don't carry your Social Security number with you.

And before sharing it with anyone, ask why they need it, how they'll protect it and what happens if you don't give it to them.

Shred everything, including receipts, credit offers, applications, insurance forms, doctors and bank statements.

Do not give out personal information to anyone you don't know over the phone or online.

Protect your computer.

It might contain tax returns, Social Security numbers and passwords.

So don't click on unknown email links that could allow scammers in.

Finally, be aware.

Look over each bank and credit card statement thoroughly for suspicious activity.

Get your three free credit reports every year through and check them for suspicious activity.

Nothing can prevent ID theft 100%, but this should decrease your chances it will happen to you.

The Federal Trade Commissionhas other steps you should be taking right now to protect your identity.

Here's more government informationabout ID theft.

If you need help or need to warn others about a consumer problem or scam, let me know at or by going to my  "Let Joe Know" Facebook page.