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Avoiding identity theft

Ward County State's Attorney Roza Larson has a strong message for anyone who thinks they have protected themselves adequately against identity theft.

Think again.

Larson's message is a simple one: Identity theft can happen to anyone, and it can be easier than you think to have your identity stolen.

In 2007, she said, nearly 10 million people were victims of some type of identity theft. If it hasn't happened to you, it's likely you know someone who has gone through the experience, which can be time-consuming and difficult to fix, not to mention potentially crippling financially.

Direct deposit options are generally a good idea, Larson said. So is shredding, but make sure your shredder is a cross-cut type. Otherwise, someone could piece together enough information from shredder materials to make your life miserable. And be extra careful with your Social Security number.

Our advice is this: If you even remotely think a piece of paper headed for the trash could contain any personal information that you don't want stolen, shred it.

It's unfortunate that consumers have to think about these things, but it's a reality of the information-driven world we live in today. Be careful out there.