Tough economic times- which continue still- mean more people will likely engage in improper or illegal conduct. In other words, crime rises.

One method of crime is identity theft. Identity thieves use a variety of methods to obtain personal information, be it through a traditional wallet theft, a security breach through a company that maintains personal files, or hacking into your personal computer. While it is disturbing to think of a stranger obtaining your private information, the scary fact is that many identity thieves have personal relationships with their victims. Identity thieves use stolen information to obtain loans and credit lines, commit tax fraud, and obtain medical care through their victims’ insurance policy.

Identity theft is not  new, but it has increased recently, and many experts blame this on our recent recession.

Mark Foster, director of education for Credit Counseling of Arkansas, blames the rise in identity theft on a combination of the low prosecution rates coupled with the credit crisis. “In tougher economic times,” he says. “Crimes involving money become more commonplace.”

To protect yourself, please  closely watch all your personal information. As we have stated before, take advantage of your right to a free credit report every year, and pay attention to any changes in data that you didn’t make. Monitor your credit card and bank accounts and close those accounts that you don’t use. Do not share your social security number unless absolutely necessary, and keep your social security card, birth certificate, passport, and other identifying documents in a safe place.