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Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide. This occurs when thieves access any amount of personal information — such as your name, social security number, account numbers, or birth date. Thieves could easily gather this information from a wallet, a document in the trash, or even an unsecured home computer or laptop. In today's technological age, it is imperative that identity theft protection is at the forefront of our minds. Remember, the biggest line of defense starts with YOU!

Don't know where to start? Let us help. Consider these 3 simple tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Create Strong Passwords and Change them Frequently. Avoid passwords such as birthdates, pets names, family members names, or any word that can be found in a dictionary. Strong passwords usually include a capital letter, number, and special character.

Be Mindful of What You Share. With the significant growth in social networking sites, a lot of identifying information is being shared online. Thieves can and will look at this! Don't post personal information such as your address, birthday, or social security number online. Likewise, do not share personal information over the phone or through your email if the caller/sender is not a known and trusted source. Remembe If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Check Your Credit Report. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies:

Take advantage of this! We encourage you to check your credit report every 4 months (or three times a year), once from each of the credit reporting agencies. This could help you catch any errors. If you notice that any information has been compromised, you have the ability to set up a fraud alert and put a security freeze on your files and information.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is important to notify your bank and credit card companies as well as to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Though the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, they do enter all complaints into a worldwide database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities. Visit the FTC Complaint Assistant to file a complaint today.