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The movie "Identity Thief" comes to mind when thinking of how easy it is for thieves to steal our personal information.

It may be as easy as getting a call from a person claiming to be from your bank or a credit monitoring agency letting you know your credit card has been compromised, but then asks you to confirm personal details they use to scam you.

Recently, a woman was seen withdrawing money at two Valley banks using a stolen driver's license. Police say she even opened a credit account at a Nordstrom's store and bought over $4,000 in merchandise.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

Here's a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission.:

Protect your documents: Thieves rummage through trash at homes, businesses or public dumps for useful information. Avoid throwing away anything that has personal information like addresses, social security numbers or bank account numbers. Shred instead. Have a go-to stack of important documents to grab in case of an emergency.

Beware of online scams: The Internet can be a trap of personal identifiers. Make sure your computer has spyware software and is up to date. The longer your passwords the harder they are to hack into. Back up your files periodically.

Monitor often: Starting with a free yearly credit report, look out for any strange transactions on your bank accounts. You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Social networks: Don't over share. We may not realize but we give out personal information on our social networks. That information could be used to answer "challenge" questions for your accounts. Never post your phone number, address or social security number online.

Steps to take if you've been a victim: Contact the credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Order your credit reports and create an identity theft report. It's very important you keep track of who you call. Log the calls and who you spoke with. Send letters only by certified mail. Create a file and make timelines to keep track of your progress.

Martha Maurer, News Editor

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