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Millions of Americans are victims of identity theft each year. As thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, consumers must be diligent in protecting their identity. While some identity theft issues can be resolved quickly, other identity theft victims face years of recovery. One of the most important things a consumer can do for their credit is to protect their confidential personal information. Here are some steps a consumer can take:

Shred confidential information
Often, identity theft occurs when a thief goes “dumpster diving,” i.e., rummaging through trash to find confidential information. Consumers can protect themselves by shredding any document that contains Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other important confidential information. When in doubt, play it safe and shred it.

Protect your confidential information
Identity thieves use sophisticated methods, such as fraudulent phone calls and text messages, to obtain Social Security and account numbers. Know who is calling you, and don’t provide confidential information over the phone unless you’ve made the phone call.

Don’t click on suspicious emails
Phishing scams have become increasingly popular, and phishing emails often look legitimate. Don’t click on links in emails—instead type the official URL into your browser’s address bar. If something looks suspicious, assume that it probably is. Call your bank or credit card company directly and inquire about the email.

Monitor your credit
Order your free annual credit reports and scrutinize them to ensure that all of the accounts listed are yours. By reviewing your credit report on a regular basis, you may catch an instance of identity theft before it becomes a larger problem.