Lock Down

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laptopsIt could be the worst-case scenario. Your laptop has been stolen. The first thing you think about is all the personal and business information you have saved on your hard drive. Now a thief has access to your personal data. This has been a growing problem. In fact, the number of compromised personal identity incidents, according to the Secret Service, has reached a record high of 361 million records in 2008.

Don’t despair, however. There are actions you can take. With personal information – such as bills, records and account numbers – thieves can take over your existing accounts, withdraw money, and even liquidate your assets. Ultimately, they can steal your identity. First contact the police, then contact all your existing accounts. Change all your passwords and user names.

Get a credit freeze. For instructions on how to do this, go to DefendYourDollars.org. This will block someone from trying to open new accounts in your name, using your personal information. It is also a good idea to invest in identity theft protection, such as www.identityguard.com. Such companies will monitor your credit, alerting you if there is suspicious activity.

Next time, back up all your data. There are various kinds of software on the market that will allow you to do this easily.