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Some 200,000 Citigroup customer’s personal information was compromised recently when a team of sophisticated thieves cracked the bank’s system of personal financial data. The hackers captured names, account numbers, email addresses and transaction histories until they were detected in early May.

This isn’t an isolated case of its kind. In April, Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered an outage that affected more than70 million accounts due to a hack to its system.

Identity theft has ranked first among complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for 11 consecutive years, with 1.34 million in 2010, reports the New York Times.

Dealing with identity theft can be a tedious and frustrating process but there are several ways you can protect your privacy and prevent it from happening to you. While many of these tips may seem like common sense, you would be surprised how many people skip these steps while dealing with the busyness of their day to day functions.

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Many would-be identity thieves go through trash to find the information they need to steal your identity. Get into the habit of shredding all old bills, bank and credit card statements and any and all important financial documents.

Many people tend to toss their statements to the side, but it is crucial to look them over regularly to ensure there is no suspicious activity or purchases.

Keep all numbers private – that includes your social security number, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. Don’t give these numbers over the phone unless you are certain you know who you are speaking with. And don’t write them down on envelopes or papers you keep in your wallet or laying around.

It goes without saying that you need to guard your personal information online as well. Don’t give your social security number out unless you are sure it is a secure site. Don’t click on any links that require you to give personal information – on a Web site or in an email. There are several ways these scams can infiltrate your computer thereby stealing your personal information. If PayPal or your bank, for instance, has an important message for you or requires action on your part, you will see a message when you log into your account. Or you will likely receive an email advising you to login to your account. Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software to help keep your computer system safe.

Lastly, federal law entitles you to receive a free yearly credit report from the three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – get a copy from

For more information about identity theft visit the FTC Web site.

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