Identity theft is nothing new, but the rise of the Internet has turned ID theft into a multibillion dollar international business. There are plenty of companies out there that want to sell you protection services, for a fee, which usually involve some form of monitoring of your credit report and your accounts, plus an insurance policy, but there is little information on how to effectively protect yourself from being a target.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has devoted an entire website to educating the public, and created pithy posters to promote their 3-Ds of identity theft: Deter; Detect; Defend. While detection and remediation are important, the best way to deal with identity theft is to deter it by protecting your information. Unfortunately, the deter portion of the FTC’s website is pretty light:

  1. Shred financial documents before you discard them
  2. Protect your social security number
  3. Don’t give out personal information to unknown parties
  4. Never click links on unsolicited emails
  5. Don’t use an obvious password
  6. Keep your personal information in a secure place at home

This is a fine list, but it really doesn’t go far enough to make it useful. As an example, the government says don’t use an obvious password. Well DUH! They don’t tell you how to create a non-obvious password, how to keep it secure, and how to remember it when you need it.

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