How you can protect yourself from the rising threat of identity theft?

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Identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission’s complaints list for the 12th year in a row in 2011 and victims struggle to clear their names. But there are steps you can take to prevent it or effectively deal with identity theft if it happens to you.

The following is a transcript of the video:

Kelly Christensen is a cautious person– At least she is now.

Christensen: In the future, I’ll be more on the lookout.

Her financial information has been hacked twice over the last few years. The first time she was in college and had little money.

Christensen: I looked at my statement online and it was in the red.

The police and TCF bank helped her undo the charges. But last month someone stole her credit card. She didn’t realize it until the credit company called.

Christensen: “Were you in Chicago eating breakfast on that date?” I was like no I was in Rosemont.

Christensen’s bad luck is part of a rising trend. For a 12th year in row, in 2011 identity theft topped the Federal Trade of Commission’s list of consumer complaints. Ed Haag says there are ways to reduce your risks.

Haag: I began studying it, looking in and finding information I could at that time.

Haag was the victim of an identity theft eight years ago.

Haag: They had my social security number, my date of birth and all my home listed information. The investigator told me you’re a victim of true identity theft.

It took him a year to clear all the fraudulent charges and he learned so much that he launched his own website, undoidentitytheft.com

Haag : There has to be some accountability, we can’t count on someone else to take care of this.

Here are three protections he recommends.
1) Opt out of unsolicited credit offers at optoutprescreen.com.
2) Request your annual credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
3) And contact your local social security administration to make sure that no other income is being reported under your name

Some monitoring services can also do the job for a fee. Sill, 80 percent of thefts aren’t financial.

Haag : If somebody commits a crime in your name in another state, maybe it’s something as simple as a couple of speeding tickets they didn’t pay and all of a sudden there is warrant for their arrest.

Earlier this month, a study by All Clear ID showed children are targeted by thieves 35 times more than adults. That’s because few parents monitor their child’s credit history.

Haag: You could have hundred of thousands of dollars debts in a child name by the time they pull their first credit report.

James Dimeas is an attorney who specializes in defending identity thieves. You wouldn’t believe what some of his clients have done.

Dimeas : I’ve defended people who have used their own children’s social security number and have been able to obtain credit, and that’s pretty sad.

He also defended a waiter who stole customer’s credit card number.

Dimeas: Whenever I go out somewhere to eat at a restaurant, I really get nervous when I give somebody a credit card.

So what are the first things you should do if your identity is stolen? Haag suggests three steps:
• Fill out a police report and copy the report number.
• Contact one of the main credit bureaus, send them the police report and request they freeze your social security number.
• And contact Illinois’ consumer protection division.

Remember Christensen? Her credit history is now clean. But could someone steal her financial information again? She says, maybe.

Christensen: if people are going to find out your information, they are going to find out one way or another.

So make sure to catch it early and mitigate your damages. Ben Schamisso, Northwestern News Network.

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