How to keep your identity safe and sound.

Recently, Universal released a hugely successful movie, Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, in which Genesis Rodríguez, the real-life daughter of Venezuelan superstar El Puma, plays a very bad girl indeed. It’s a raucous comedy…but it deals with a subject that’s no laughing matter in real life.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes to afflict people in our cyber-connected world. Using your credit cards or your Internet messages to gather information like your Social Security number, your passwords, your birthday, or your bank account numbers, identity thieves can empty your bank accounts, ruin your credit, use your identity to fund drug purchases or obtain medical benefits, or provide fraudulent documentation to people who’ve entered the country illegally. It’s a growing crime: according to Equifax, more than 11.6 million adults had their identities stolen in 2011. A year later, complaints with the Internal Revenue Service’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit were up by 80%.

Is there any way you can protect yourself? Here are a few tips!

Your Internet provider offers free Internet security service for your protection; use it to keep tech-savvy identity thieves from stealing your personal information.

Use unique passwords that are different for each website you frequent, and make sure they’re sufficiently complex.

Don’t put your age, birthdate, address, family names, or other sensitive information on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts.

You are entitled to one free credit report each year, which you can get  at Use it! See if it lists unfamiliar lines of credit, an account you didn’t open, errors in your personal information or a wrong Social Security number.

1. Honor thy mobile device. Know where it is, and don’t put it where it can easily be taken, for it stores much information about you.

2. Protect thy device with a password. Should your device be taken, this makes it harder for identity thieves to access your information.

3. Trust not in open Wi Fi networks. When you use them to connect to your favorite websites, it’s easy for others to eavesdrop electronically.

4. Thou shalt not store sensitive information on a cell phone. Passwords, log-ins, account numbers, Social Security numbers and the like should be written on paper and locked away safely.

5. Thou shalt not text sensitive information from a cell phone. Texts remain logged in your phone long after you’ve forgotten sending them. Hackers and thieves can access them easily.

6. Thou shalt use only one card for shopping by mobile. That way, if it’s compromised, you only have one account to clean up.

7. Thou shalt never provide sensitive information to any company that requests it by text or email, for this is called “phishing” and it is an abomination. Respectable companies NEVER request sensitive information in such fashion.

8. Thou shalt only download banking, tax-prep, and financial apps from reputable companies. Be diligent and research the ratings and comments they’ve received from other users.

9. Thou shalt invest in a security application that “shreds” the information on thy phone remotely. This is valuable in case of theft, but it’s also good to strip your cell phone of all information when you upgrade it or move on to a different device.

10. Thou shalt check thy accounts regularly. Keep an eye on your banking and checking accounts, to make sure no one has made transactions without your knowledge, whether by using your phone or another source of information.