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Protect your identity

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A thief recently stole personal information related to the student loans of 3.3 million people. It's believed to be the largest ever breach of such data.

There may not have been anything these people could have done to keep their identity under wraps but there are steps you can take to protect your privacy as best you can.

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With the looming tax filing deadline of April 15th, you might be concerned that your private financial information could be accessed by individuals without your authorization.

Here are some steps you can take to minimize your risk.

If you decide to use a paid preparer to help you with your taxes, check with the Better Business Bureau first to determine their credibility before you entrust them with access to your personal information.

If you receive a phone call or an e-mail from someone claiming to be an IRS representative, hang up or hit delete, because this is a scam. The IRS does not e-mail or call taxpayers.

If the IRS wishes to contact you, they will mail you a letter. Search "identity theft" at irs.gov for more information.

You or your college student might also be at risk for identity theft at school. According to some estimates, nearly half of all students have had their grades posted by social security number.

To avoid putting your private data at risk, go to the college security office and get a student ID that is not your social security number.

Also beware of social networking sites. This is where most information is lifted. Stop for a minute and think about how much personal information is posted on your page.

There's your full name, date of birth, phone number and address. Clues to finding out much more information about you.

Take the time to set restrictions on your profile so only your trusted friends can view the information.

And if you're on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter from a public computer, make sure you delete the cookies on the browser before you log off.

Talkback: Have you have a problem with securing your personal data? (See comments) To top of page

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