Identity theft crime is becoming more widespread all the time. Over 10 million people a year become victims of identity theft There are many ways criminals obtain your personal information. Here are some ways to prevent it as well as what you should do after the fact if it happens to you.

     One way for criminals to get some of your personal information is to steal your mail. Your mail usually contains utility bills, mortgage bills, car loan bills, and credit card bills with your credit card number and limits clearly printed on them. There are sensitive documents arriving in your mail box nearly everyday. If you have a mail slot where the mail is delivered directly into your house that is a good way to keep it from criminals. If your mailbox is detached from your house then you should make sure it is locked every time.

     Another popular way the criminals get to your documents is to go through your trash looking for the same documents mentioned above. You should never just throw sensitive information into the trash. You should use a paper shredder or even burn it if you have to but never leave it in the trash. Throwing it away makes it too easy for the thieves to get their hands on it.

     Almost all cell phone have a camera built in to it. When you take out your credit card at a store, make sure the person behind you isn’t photographing your card. They will have your name, card number, and the cards expiration date in a split second. Try to make it difficult for someone to get a clear view of your card.

     As criminals become more computer savvy, there are trojans and viruses that can be designed to record all of your computer keystrokes. This includes typing in user names and passwords to websites with sensitive information. Another way to get your information that doesn’t involve viruses is something known as phishing. A phishing scam is where you receive an e-mail that appears to be from a company like your bank or some other place you might be doing business with online. You click a link in these phoney e-mails to "update your account" and you are sent to an official looking website where they ask you to type in your username, password, account numbers, social security number, or any other kind of information that should be kept secret. Once you’ve done that they have all the information they need to steal your money, apply for credit in your name, and create major problems for you.

     You should always keep your antivirus software up to date and NEVER click on a link in an e-mail that takes you to a page to fill in personal, sensitive information. If a company you deal with online needs you to update information they will send you an e-mail that asks you to go to the website by typing in the URL yourself and logging in with your username and password. A legitimate company will never link you to a page to fill in personal details.

     Following these tips can keep your identity safe. If you are the victim of identity theft crime you should file a police report right away. Filing a police report will help prove that you are trying to clean up the damage done by these thieves. After you have your police report you will need to request a free copy of your credit report so you can look it over for any items that you are not responsible for. You can then write letters to the three major credit bureaus to try to clear your report. You may need to seek professional help if the damage is really bad.

     Prevention is the best way to deal with identity theft crime so be diligent in keeping your personal information safe. A criminal will always look for the path of least resistance, in other words, the easiest target. By making yourself a difficult target, the criminals will then move on to their next target.