id theftIf you're like most consumers, you have piles of stuff waiting to be shredded -- old medical records, credit card and bank statements and investment records.

On April 16, consumers will be able to go to a Better Business Bureau-sponsored site in their area to get their documents shredded. Go to the "BBB Secure Your ID Day" site for information on where you can find a location nearest you.

The events are the BBB's spring initiative to inform consumers and businesses about the best ways to protect data and personal information. About eight million Americans were victims of identity theft last year.The BBB recommends consumers take the following steps to prevent online identity theft:

  • Don't fall for phishing emails that can look legitimate with graphics and "official" logos of banks, government agencies or credit card companies. Don't click on hyperlinks that could install viruses and malware or steal bank account or Social Security numbers.

  • Create strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, capitalized letters and symbols. Don't use Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name or birthday.

  • Be wary of entering passwords or sensitive information into a computer at an Internet cafe, library or airport kiosk. Hackers can record keystrokes to learn passwords and other information.

  • Protect your computer with anti-virus software, as well as anti-spyware and firewall protection.

  • When you give out personal information online, only use secure website addresses that begin with https.
The FBI offers these additional identity fraud prevention tips:

  • Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit card or bank statements in a usable form.

  • Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you've made the call.

  • Reconcile your bank account monthly (or if banking online, daily), and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.

  • Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet or credit cards. Keep this list in a safe place at home, separate from your wallet.

  • Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company and the police as soon as you detect them.

  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once a year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they're explained or removed.
"BBB is committed to helping consumers fight fraud and identity theft is one of the largest threats we all face every day," said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in a statement.

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