ID thieves can rack up bogus credit card bills, sully your finances and rob you of your good name. We give you the tools to protect yourself and show you what to do in case you become a victim. August 3, 2006 Think identity theft won't happen to you? According to a recent survey from the U.S. Department of Justice, 3.6 million households -- or 3% of the population -- had been victims in the first six months of 2004 alone. And about two-thirds of those households lost money, an average of almost $1,300.But it's not just losing your wallet or throwing out sensitive data in your trash that can leave you vulnerable. It seems each week there's a new report of a security breach at companies or organizations that may house your own personal information. Just last month, for example, student loan provider Nelnet reported a lost computer file that contained the personal information of about 188,000 Colorado students. And in June, a computer server was stolen from insurance provider AIG with the names, social security numbers and medical records of about 930,000 customers. In fact, in June and July alone, more than 3.5 million records containing personal information were lost or stolen thorough security breaches at corporations, governments and other organizations, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. While you unfortunately cannot eliminate your risk entirely, we've put together a guide to show you how to minimize the odds of having your good name -- and credit -- stolen. And if you happen to become a victim, you'll want to discover the theft as soon as possible and take steps to reclaim your identity. Don't Let ID Thieves Steal You Blind Most victims of identity theft don't realize their financial information has been compromised until it's too late. Find out how to protect yourself, and what to do if your data is hijacked. Advertisement But Officer, That Isn't Me It's bad enough when someone uses your credit cards to go on a spending spree. But a criminal identity theft could rob you of your good name and land you in jail. Beyond Shredders Since February 2005, the personal data of nearly 90 million individuals has been reported lost or stolen from banks, colleges, hospitals and other organizations. What can you do to protect yourself from identity theft when you have no control over the security breach? Insure Your Identity? Even if you've been extremely careful to protect your personal information -- dutifully shredding documents, jealously guarding your social security number and scrupulously avoiding Web sites that ask for personal details -- you could still become a victim of identity theft. Should you buy protection? Time for a Credit Report Checkup Do you know what your credit history is saying about you? Regularly checking your credit report can help you spot signs of identity theft and other errors early on. We show you what to look for and how to fix any mistakes.