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Scams

Safeguard Your Number

Protect yourself against identity theft.

Federal prosecutors recently announced that hackers swiped more than 130 million credit- and debit-card numbers and account details from several big companies over the past two years. The scheme, which the feds call the biggest such case in U.S. history, serves as a stark reminder that it pays to protect your personal information.

Above all, be careful to whom you give your card information. When you’re on the phone, be certain you’re speaking with a reputable retailer or a trustworthy financial institution. Before you shop or pay bills from your home computer, encrypt your home Wi-Fi by turning on the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) in your router. Be sure to use anti-spyware software (it’s free from AVG at www.free.avg.com). And buy a decent cross-cut or confetti shredder, such as the Fellowes Powershred DS-2 (less than $100).

Finally, review your statements each month. If you see something unfamiliar, call the issuer right away to see whether you can get more information -- or to dispute the charge. If, despite your best efforts, you think a thief may have used your card, don’t panic. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (www.idtheftcenter.org).