Don't become a victim of identity theft

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Beware of crooks looking for more than holiday bargains. Don't let your identity slip through the cracks during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. In fact, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year and a great opportunity for identity thieves and pickpockets to take advantage of crowded shopping environments. ITRC receives more calls about lost and stolen wallets between November and January than any other time of the year.

Because identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in America; affecting more than 10 million victims each year, Money Management International (MMI) in partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and other NFCC Member Agencies will recognize Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) October 19-25, 2008. As part of this nationwide grassroots consumer education outreach, MMI will host a free Web seminar entitled Avoid Identity Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend on October 22, 2008 at 8pm EST. To register for this Webinar, visit and click on the left navigation.

NFCC Member Agencies in more than 100 locations across the nation will conduct identity theft workshops, credit report reviews, and shredding events, in addition to providing a variety of other protection oriented education. All events are free and open to the public. To learn more about this initiative or to find an identity theft prevention event near you, visit .

Identity theft can happen anywhere and to anyone, so it's important to stay aware of the latest schemes, and understand how to protect yourself. Even with added protections, fighting ID theft is tough, and time consuming, so MMI offers the following everyday tips to help keep your information safe and secure:

Don't leave your wallet or statements lying around-even at home. Don't carry Social Security cards or anything with your Social Security number on it. Keep track of your credit card receipts and carbons. Never tell anyone your card number over the phone, unless you initiate the phone call. Never allow your credit card number to be used as identification. Collect your mail regularly and destroy unwanted credit solicitations. Monitor your credit statements.

If you become a victim, acting quickly is the key to minimizing damage. Take these steps if you feel your identity has been stolen:

File a police report. Immediately notify issuers of credit. Contact the fraud department of each of the credit reporting agencies to place a temporary 90-day Fraud Alert on your file. Monitor your credit file. Contact your local state Attorney General's office, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (877-IDTHEFT).

Identity theft is recognized as a serious social issue by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States Secret Service. For more information about protecting your good name, visit or .