St. Louis has the highest level of identity theft in the United States

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Better Business Bureau officials are sponsoring two “Shred It” Events Saturday, where people can shred up to three boxes of personal information, in an effort to protect individuals’ identities.  On Thursday, BBB officials in St. Louis announced that the Federal Trade Commission indicated that last year, St. Louis had the highest level of identity theft in the country, in comparison to other metro areas.

BBB officials speculated that the ranking could be due, in part, to data-base breaches at Schnucks and Target.

Scott Schaffer is a cyber-security expert at Blade Technologies.

“Yeah, if you figure everything is the same,” said Schaffer, when asked if those data-base breaches could account for St. Louis’ ranking.  “You don't have any variables regarding numbers using credit cards here, compared to elsewhere.  But when you have a big breach like that the information gets out.

Schaffer said the key to protecting your identity is to protect your social security number.

“So that's something you want to be very careful about,” said Schaffer.  “I know I was asked to write my social security number down on a check recently, and I gracefully refused.  You know, that does not need to be on my check.  If you want to look at my driver’s license, I can write my driver’s license number on the check; that's okay.  But your social security number is so key to all of our financial lives, you just have to be super careful.”

And Schaffer said when it comes to computer passwords, long is strong.

“Don't re-use passwords from one account to the other,” he said.  “If you have a VISA card or Master Card, don't use the same password for both.”

Schaffer also said it’s important to have what he calls good computer hygiene.

“You definitely need to have anti-malware, anti-virus on your work stations all the time,” said Schaffer.  “You need to look at a personal firewall, perhaps, especially if you're out using open wireless networks you don't necessarily trust all the time.  You want to exercise a lot of caution on open networks because people can sniff that traffic.  So you want to be very careful.”

The BBB Shred It events Saturday take place from 8-noon at Edwardsville Schnucks and Galleria.

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