how to avoid and what to do when it happens

How To avoid

1 Dont a post carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.2 Protect your PIN. Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet. 3 Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two. 4 Keep your receipts. Ask for carbons and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. 5 Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work. Don't leave it lying around.

What to do when identity is stolen

1 Report it to your financial institution. Call the phone number on your account statement or on the back of your credit or debit card. 2 Report the fraud to your local police immediately. Keep a copy of the police report, which will make it easier to prove your case to creditors and retailers. 3 Contact the credit-reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account with a fraud alert, which asks merchants not to grant new credit without your approval. 4 Change information. 5 Get new debit or credit card.