Special Assignment: Identity Theft

It's the ultimate target for thieves, and you're making it way too easy for them.

As you'll see in this News 12 Special Assignment, your identity is up for grabs.

It's up to you to keep what's truly yours.

The problem is, your identity is already out there...online, in the mail, and in your trash.

"Identity theft is the fastest growing crime for the sixth year in a row according to the FTC," says Todd Davis. Davis represents a new generation of companies that make a living helping you keep what's yours.

We'll tell you more about that in a minute.

But first, you need to hear what happened to Kevin Lloyd.

He was at work, minding his own business, checking his e-mail one day. It turns out somebody else was minding his business too.

"Checking e-mail, working, doing normal stuff, when I got an e-mail from Regions Bank saying they needed to verify my account information," Kevin says.

It looked just like it came from his bank, but it didn't.

Kevin fell for one of the newest tricks in the book.

It's called "phishing", and it's just one more way the bad guys steal your identity.

And the moment he clicked on the site and gave them his account number, the damage was done.

"So they took money out of my savings account, put it into checking, then went to an ATM and withdrew out of my checking account."

"How long did it take you to realize your mistake?" we asked.

"My wife is actually the one who realized it--I was home babysitting my daughter. She went to Wal-Mart and paid with a debit card. They rejected it."

It was already too late.

But the Internet is not the only danger area when it comes to identity theft. Junk mail can make the bad guys rich. Make sure you destroy all those credit card offers.

"Don't leave your mail out there," says Davis. "When you get it, shred it. They're breaking into mailboxes; they're getting the pre-approved credit card offers. Not only are they using them, they're paying the bill for 6 months so they can get that limit up."

And don't pay your bills out of your mailbox.

"Don't leave that flag up...that's just a signal to thieves to come by, because you probably have a credit card payment with all your personal information," Davis says.

These days, even your ATM can be spying on you. Thieves have been known to use a hidden camera to watch the numbers you punch on the keypad.

What else can you do to protect yourself?

That's a question that leads us back to Todd Davis and his company, Lifelock.

For a fee, Lifelock will monitor your credit report and make sure no one is pretending to be you, spending your money.

"If your identity is ever compromised in any way, we will fix the problem, period," Davis says. "If that means somebody committed a crime and you got thrown into jail, we are going to bail you out, provide you a lawyer and clear your credit back to where it was before you were a victim...and reimburse you up to $1 million in losses."

Regions Bank did everything it could to work with Todd's family and get his accounts straightened out.

The banks are not at fault here; they're victims in this too.

Just this week, Suntrust launched a free identity theft protection and credit monitoring service.

Again, some of the do's and don'ts:

Don't be fooled by an e-mail that looks like it came from your bank. They don't need to verify your information--they already have it.

Don't pay your bills out of your mailbox. That little red flag is a signal to thieves.

Whether you do it yourself, or you pay someone to do it for you, monitor your credit report, and shred those pre-approved credit card offers. These days, even your trash can be used against you.