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Protecting Your Identity: Be Proactive

The Justice Department says it has charged 11 people with stealing and selling more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers in what it calls the largest hacking and identity theft case it has ever prosecuted.

The news may give shoppers pause when it comes to pulling out the plastic, but CBS News science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg says there are things we can all do to protect ourselves from ID theft.

In this case, Sieberg says, people became potential targets just by paying with their credit and debit cards. The responsibility was on the retailers to secure their wireless networks, which were hacked.

Here's what we all can do to be proactive:

Check you credit report
Get a credit report at least once a year. One of the best ways to stay clear of identity theft is to pay attention to bank statements and credit card bills.

Be aware of all charges
Don't just look out for large amounts. Look out for smaller, odd charges.

Shred, shred, shred
Junk mail often ends up in the trash, but it also has a lot of our personal information on it. While it would not have made a difference in this hacking case, shredding the mail that you throw away minimizes the potential for someone finding your information.

Place a fraud alert on your credit file
By doing so, any creditor in the future will have to alert you that someone is trying to open an account in your name. (This may also delay your future credit card applications.) In some cases, its only for 90 days in the beginning. If you've been a victim of identity theft, you are protected for seven years.

Report odd activity to the FTC
Visit the The Federal Trade Commission online for more tips or to report ID fraud.

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