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How to Protect Your Identity

It's National Consumer Protection Week. Are you taking the right steps to guard against identity theft?

More than 60 consumer groups, advocacy organizations, and federal, state and local agencies kicked off National Consumer Protection Week March 3. The annual campaign focuses on keeping consumers informed about their rights. It also aims to help consumers learn to protect their privacy and avoid identity theft, which is a growing problem.

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Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission reported that it received more than 2 million consumer complaints in 2012 -- a record high. And identity theft was the top complaint category, making up 18% of the overall complaints. Identity theft has actually claimed the number-one spot for several years, and the number of identity theft complaints has more than quadrupled since 2001, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database that maintains complaints received by the FTC and other law enforcement agencies.

To learn how to protect yourself from identity theft -- and to learn more about other consumer topics -- you can get free information from the National Consumer Protection Week Web site or ask questions during a Twitter chat hosted by the FTC March 6 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the conversation @FTC and tweet your questions using the hashtag #NCPW.

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And here's a collection of Kiplinger's best identity theft advice:

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Tricks ID Thieves Use Knowing which red flags to watch for will help you protect your identity.

8 Things Never to Keep in Your Wallet With just your name and Social Security number, identity thieves can open new credit accounts and make costly purchases in your name. If they can get their hands on (and doctor) a government-issued photo ID, they can do even more damage.

How to Get Free Identity Theft Protection Consider monitoring your own personal information to guard against fraud. Here's how.

Protect Yourself From ID Theft on Vacation Here are six ways to lower your risk of becoming a victim.

7 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Tax Scams Follow these steps to lower your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or tax fraud.

The Threat to Next Year's Tax Refund Limit your exposure to financial harm by eliminating the overwithholding that puts you in the position of having to wait for a big tax refund.

Guard Against Medical Identity Theft Take steps to lower your risk of becoming a victim of the fastest-growing type of ID theft.

Protect Your College Student From ID Theft Tell your kids to take these precautions when they head off to school.

Protect Your Kids From ID Theft Follow these tips to guard your child's personal information, and watch out for these signs that his or her identity has been stolen.

How to Protect Yourself After Identity Theft Before paying for an identity-theft-protection service, be sure you know what you're getting for your money.

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