Identity theft is unfortunately a very common crime, but it is one that can often be prevented with diligence. It is important to stop identity theft before it occurs, because it can frequently be difficult to recover stolen funds or to restore a good credit score, as well as to catch and prosecute the person who stole your identity. The first step to stop identity theft is to be vigilant about your credit and debit cards, as well as your mail.
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Another way to stop identity theft is to limit the amount of credit cards you have, as well as those you carry. Write down the credit card numbers, expiration dates, and phone numbers of the credit card companies in a secure place, and do not carry it with you; this way, if your credit cards are lost or stolen, you can quickly call the company and cancel the cards. In addition, try to use credit cards rather than debit cards when shopping, because it is more difficult to recover funds stolen from a checking account. Never use a debit card when shopping online.
When you receive credit cards and bank statements in the mail, or anything else with sensitive information, shred them before throwing them away. Be sure to review them carefully to note any potential fraudulent charges. Never write your credit card number on your checks when paying your credit card, and be vigilant about your mailbox. Keep it locked, or get your mail as soon as possible; thieves will often take mail right out of your mailbox and attempt to open credit cards in your name.
All of these are helpful ways to stop identity theft. It is best to simply be protective of your private information, and to use common sense when you are dealing with businesses. If you believe your identity has been stolen, immediately alert banks and creditors, and place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports; there is a great deal of information to be found online about how to recover your identity and undo the damage.