Did you know an estimated 17.6 million people were victims of one or more incidents of identity theft in 2014? According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, seven percent of all residents age 16 or older were victims, with three percent of people experiencing the misuse of a credit card. Over the last two weeks, we have discussed ways to recover from identity theft and social security fraud. So what can you do to protect yourself from the threat of identity theft?

If you’ve received a phone call from someone impersonating an IRS agent demanding you pay immediately, chances are it is a scam. Should you receive this type of phone call, report it. The IRS asks these phone calls and other IRS impersonation crimes be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.

If you receive an email from the IRS, even if the logo from the IRS looks real, it is a scam. The IRS does not make initial contact via the phone or email.

Steps to Protect Yourself:

· Keep your social security card and any documentation in a safe place. Do not carry your social security card.

· Be mindful about sharing your social security number, even when someone asks for it. Share it ONLY WHEN ABSOLTUELY NECESSARY.

· Protect your financial information on your computer. In a world where everything is digital, you need to make sure to protect your computer. This means using firewalls, anti-spam and virus software, and routinely changing your password to protect yourself and your information.

· Check your credit report annually.

· The IRS recommends checking your social security administration earning statement annually.

· Finally, protect any of your identifiable information by only providing the information when YOU initiate contact or know who is asking for it.

Recovering from identity theft is hard, but you can take the precautions to prevent it from happening with these few simple steps.