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Do you realize what you throw away everyday? If someone sifted through your trash, would they find any of the following:

Any pre-approved credit card applications? You probably get preapproved applications in your mail several times a month. If you don't tear them up before you throw them away, crooks who sift the trash can send them in and get a card in your name. All they have to do is forge your signature and put a "new" address. You may never know you have a problem until you get turned down for credit because "you haven't paid your credit card bills."

Old credit-card statements or shopping bags with old charge slips left inside? It's true that the most you'll be held responsible for on your credit card is $50 worth of unauthorized charges. And if someone used your card number but not your card to make a transaction, you won't have to pay for any of it. But you could be in for a months of hassles with a credit card company.

Don't make it easy for crooks to get your number-credit card, social security, phone card, etc. Take some simple precautions to protect yourself such as shredding canceled checks, pay stubs, airline and train ticket stubs, travel or any document that might contain your credit card or social security number before you throw it away. A public trash can at an airport or a mall is an even easier target for crooks than your home garbage.

Other protective measures:

1//When you shop, refuse to write your address and phone number on credit card receipts and your credit card number checks. You can tell the shop clerk that these practices are against the card issuer's regulations and are illegal in some states.

2//Consider applying to change your driver's license number if it's the same as your social security number. Merchants often insist that you write your driver's license number on checks, and a crook with all that information can apply for a credit card in your name. If you live in a state that won't let you change your number, don't let clerks write it on checks.

3// If your credit card statement doesn't arrive when it should, notify the credit card company right away.

4// When renting a car, don't leave your rental agreement in the car after you turn it in. Also ask for carbons of car rental agreements and shred them yourself.

5// Don't use an obvious number for your calling card number, like birth date, work extension or consecutive numbers.

6// When using your calling card, cover the phone with your body, even if you don't see anyone nearby. Crooks use video cameras and binoculars to see the card number and to record what you punch in.