Identity theft is a real problem all over the world. The thieves get hold of your personal information in some way and use it to obtain financial elements in the name of the victim. This might mean credit cards, loans, checking accounts, utilities, and so much more. While this alone is a problem, the bigger picture is that the thieves do not pay for their charges. They leave these items unpaid or overdrawn and then it is turned into the credit bureaus and posts as a negative against you, crediting your score.

This means that you may have trouble getting credit, you might see an increase in your interest rates, and even collections or judgments against you. In other words, identity theft can create real and serious problems for any victim. The best defense you have is to protect yourself right from the start. You are never fully protected, but if you take certain precautions, you can decrease the risk of becoming an identity theft victim dramatically.

This identity theft checklist will help you get started:

1. Protect Your Personal Information: Never give out any information to anyone without first understanding who will see it, who will use it, and how they will be using it. It is never a good idea to give any information out over the phone, regardless of who the caller claims to be.

2. Watch Your Incoming Mail: Know when you are supposed to be receiving your bills. If you do not receive your bills when you know they are to be arriving, it is time to call the company and inquire about your account. Some identity thieves take over an account and make changes, such as changing the address for billing. Always make sure you take your mail out as soon as possible and if you are not going to be around, as for a hold on your mail.

3. Watch Your Outgoing Mail: Before you mail your payments, take a short trip to your local post office. If this is not feasible, go to a collection box instead. This will help keep your checks and payments safe when it is necessary to mail them.

4. Choose Passwords Wisely: Make sure when you are choosing passwords for your accounts that they are not easily guessed. Make sure that you are using something strong and safe for everything.

5. Shred It All: It is wise to make it a practice to shred any documents you no longer need. This means credit card statements, old or unused credit cards, bills, or any other document that may contain personal information about you and your family. Throwing these items into the garbage gives thieves the opportunity to get a hold of this information. Shred or burning documents is a safe practice.

6. Know Your Credit Report: Be watchful of your credit report. Get a copy from all credit bureaus each year. You are entitled to one free each year within the United States from each one. Carefully examine the report and keep watch for items that are incorrect or are strange to you.

These are only a few of the steps that you must take to protect yourself from identity theft. Do your homework and make sure that you are doing everything you can to fully protect yourself.