Follow these tips so that you never become a victim of ID theft. By Cameron Huddleston, Former Online Editor February 2, 2010 In my last column, I wrote about how to protect your identity during the 2010 census. So I thought today it would be a good idea to remind you how to protect your personal information at all times. High-tech fraud may be notorious, but it accounts for a relatively small amount of ID thefts. The most common source of obtaining personal information illegally is low-tech stealing (of a wallet, purse, mail and even trash). Below are some common dos and don'ts that can help you protect your information and your credit record. -- Women, don't hang your purse on the back a chair in a public place. -- Men, do put a rubber band around your wallet -- the friction makes it more difficult to pull from a pocket. Advertisement -- Do get a shredder (available for less than $15 at office supply or discount stores) and shred all documents that contain personal information. -- Don't write down or give out your PIN. -- Don't carry all of your credit cards with you. -- Do sign your credit cards. Messages such as "See photo ID" don't work because it's more difficult for thieves to forge your signature than to come up with a fake ID with your name on it. Advertisement -- Do check your credit record with the three main credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- at least annually to check for bogus entries or errors. You are entitled to a free report from each bureau once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com -- Don't carry your social security card with you. -- Don't have your social security number or telephone number printed on your checks. -- Don't give a business your social security number just because it asks for it. Advertisement -- Do find out how a business will use your personal information and what will happen if you don't give it. -- Don't give out personal information on the phone, on the Internet or by mail unless you initiate the contact. -- Do pay close attention to credit card bills to ensure no unauthorized charges are being made. -- Do watch for monthly bills. If they fail to reach you, call the company to find out why. Advertisement -- Don't use obvious passwords or PINs, such as your birth date, phone number, mother's maiden name, etc. -- Do safeguard your computer by updating your virus protection regularly and using a firewall program. -- Don't download files sent by strangers. -- Do look for Web site privacy policies when buying something online. -- Don't store financial information on your laptop. -- Do delete personal information from your computer before getting rid of it.