As you would expect, your social security number, driver's license number, bank account numbers, PINs, online usernames and passwords are some of the most important pieces of information to protect as far as identity theft goes.  Did you realize, however, that there are at least 8-10 more key pieces of information that these thieves crave?

Does it seem dangerous and detrimental to share your address and phone number?  We share these things with people as socially and casually as we share our e-mail address....yet another key piece of information to play close to your chest.

How common is it for someone to ask you the following questions?

    1.    What year did you graduate?
    2.    When is your birthday?
    3.    Do you belong to any clubs or organizations?
    4.    "I think I went to school with your brother....what is his name        again?"
    5.    Didn't I live by you when we were kids?....What was that street called again?"
    6.    "What was the name of that cute little dog you had?"

These seem like pretty harmless questions that just come up in casual conversation.  They don't raise any red flags when getting to know someone or catching up with someone that you haven't seen in a long time.  Did you realize, however, that by the back and forth banter of "casual conversation" that someone interested in your personal information just obtained answers to common security questions to verify accounts, including the street you grew up on, the name of your first pet, and you mother's maiden name?
The sad-but-true commentary on the world we live in today is that a multimillion dollar industry has been created and is thriving on the necessity to destroy anything we discard containing personal information.

Identity theft isn't just a crime against adults. A child's social security number is just as vulnerable as an adult's. If someone gets a hold of a child's social security number, it can be used to apply for a loan or government benefits, open credit card or bank accounts, or even rent an apartment. Schools tend to ask for your child's personal information to enroll, but this information is protected by law.

Warning signs to look for when watching for any type of identity theft include:

    1.    Receiving correspondence from the IRS that your child didn't file taxes or that their social security number was used on another income tax form
    2.    You get turned down for government benefits because benefits are already being paid to someone with the same social security number
    3.    You start getting calls from collection agencies or bills from products or services that you didn't order or receive.
    4.    You see suspicious activity on your bank statements or credit report

Protect yourself and your children as best you can against being a victim of identity theft by keeping all important documents that you need in a safe or safe deposit box and shredding everything that you no longer need.  For more information on shredding personal information visit