Identity theft is one of the fastest growing types of financial fraud. Anyone can be a victim.

Here are some best practices you can use to safeguard your personal and financial identity:

• Be mindful of phishing schemes, unsolicited emails and text messages that include links to phony, look-alike financial websites or even companies that you know or do business with.
• Be cautious with information you share on social networking sites and don't post things like your address, phone number, date of birth, email, or Social Security number.
• Never release any of your personal identifying information, credit card or bank account numbers over the telephone, via text message, over the Internet, or by mail – unless you have initiated the contact.
• Ensure your passwords are strong and secure. Change your passwords often and never use the same password across different websites. Craft your passwords from phrases only you understand and refrain from using characters or numbers that are right next to each other.
• It is important to pay close attention to your surroundings, whether at home or while you are out and about. Do not leave credit or debit card receipts lying around or in shopping bags.
• At an ATM or checking out at the store, use your hand to shield your PIN if there are people standing too close to you.
• When shopping online, only use trusted and secure websites. Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure the address bar changes from an "http" to an "https" address and look for a lock icon next to the URL.

If you suspect you may be a victim of ID theft here’s how you can defend against it.

1. Place an alert on your account and contact any of the three credit reporting agencies and request for them to flag your credit file for fraud. Within 24 hours, an alert will be attached to your credit file and your name will be removed from pre-approved credit and insurance applications for two years.

For active duty members of the military are eligible for a "Military Fraud Alert." This alert allows members of the military on active duty to prevent anyone from opening accounts in their name while they are overseas.


2. The credit-reporting agencies share data, so after calling one company, the other two will be notified.
3. If you need to apply for a loan during the period that your credit file is on alert, notify your lender.
4. To remove a fraud alert, you will need to send requests in writing to one of the three credit-reporting agencies.
5. File a police report.
6. Close any accounts you believe has been compromised.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission for more on identity theft.