It's important to learn how to avoid identity theft to avoid a scary and very real problem. Having your credit card numbers stolen and used by thieves to purchase large ticket items that you are then expected to pay for is a horrible feeling. It will hurt your credit. It can take years to sort out and repair your credit. We all like to think that it can't happen to us. Here are steps you can take to avoid identity theft.

Things You'll Need:
• Paper shredder
• Prepaid debit card


Shred all personal documents before disposing of them. All credit offers with your name should be shredded along with junk mail that has your name and address. For more security, divide shredded papers into 2 separate trash bags. Here's an often overlooked tip for how to avoid identity theft: even pill containers that have a prescription should have your address torn up beyond recognition. The more information a thief has about you, the more likely he will be successful so be vigilant.

Credit cards balance transfersCredit: Andres RuedaUse prepaid debit cards for online purchases. These aren't credit cards, and they're not linked to checking accounts. This means they are a great tool for how to avoid identity theft. If worst comes to worst and this number is intercepted by online thieves, the most money you'll lose is that $100, not the thousands of dollars on your credit limit. Purchase these cards from a bank or AAA office with a preset amount, such as $100. Then use them online like a credit card.

Use a wireless network that is secure and private. Don't buy things from computers on an unsecure network. In fact, wait until you are home to shop online to avoid identity theft. Don't buy things online on a computer other than your own home computer. There new "remember me" password features on some internet browsers make it too quick and easy for you to have your password recorded.

Use cash in restaurants. Giving your credit card to a waiter, and letting them go "out back" out of your sight, away from your table means they could be doing anything with it. And in fact, some DO do anything with them, such as recording your number for personal use. If you frequent restaurants where the cashiers take your credit card out back, a good way to avoid identity theft is to make it a new personal policy to use cash there.

Don't give your passwords/PIN number to anyone. Don't write them down, either, in case they get lost or stolen.

Don't carry your social security card in your wallet. This should be kept in a file at home. I can't think of any legitimate reason why you would need your actual SSN card on your person when you're out, so memorize your number and leave the record of it home.

Following these simple steps can make the difference between whether or not you become the next victim of identity theft. Good luck!