A thief was recently caught on surveillance cameras breaking into a woman's car and swiping her purse. It's a scenario Sylvia Cantu knows too well.
"I never leave my stuff in the car, ever, and this is the only place that I felt safe," said Cantu. "And lo and behold."
Cantu's purse was stolen in the parking lot of a church sports complex while she was standing just feet away.
"You come out and you don't know what to do," said Cantu. "My safe deposit box key was in my wallet, list of all my accounts, the numbers, my social security cards, because we had just done our income taxes, checkbooks, credit cards, ID."
That personal information, now in the heads of a thief, certainly puts Cantu's identity at risk.
But she took quick action. Her first suggestion is "keeping a list of all your credit cards and the numbers that are on there."
"That way, you can get home and know who to call," said Cantu.
Cantu also followed the advice of the Federal Trade Commission by placing an initial fraud alert with one of the nation's three credit reporting agencies.
This makes it harder for an identity thief to open an account in your name. It's free and lasts 90 days.
It also allows you to get a free credit report to review. If you see signs of fraud, then you can file an identity theft report.
Cantu's message is while you can't stop thieves, you can minimize the damage.
"You need to prepare for the worst case," said Cantu.
Whichever credit agency you make an initial fraud alert with is required to alert the nation's other two agencies.
Click here to find out more information about how to protect yourself against identity theft.