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Getting a basketful of chocolate eggs is an Easter treat that anyone would love. But having a basketful of passwords stolen is a nightmare that no one wants to deal with. Protecting yourself from identity theft involves a number of steps, and being smart about passwords is the first one in keeping your identity safe online.

Get smart about password safety—and protect your identity—using these steps:

• Make your passwords complex and unique. Password weakness is incredibly common – some studies have shown that as many as 75 percent of Americans have weak passwords. Luckily, it’s an easily curable problem. Instead of short passwords involving children’s names, birthdates or other simple, easily guessable words, opt for long passwords that combine letters, numbers and special characters.

• Don’t use the same password across the Web. Using one password for multiple sites across the Web is a little like dangling the key to a safe in front of identity thieves. If they can unlock a password on one site, they’ll be able to use it across multiple accounts, gaining access to extensive amounts of personal data.

• Don’t share. It might not be what Mom said to do, but being selfish about passwords is smart. Never disclose passwords via email, text or phone – even to trusted people. If a company or business contacts you and requests passwords, don’t provide them – it’s likely a scam.

• Keep passwords out of sight. Leaving a list of passwords next to the computer might make it easier to keep all those log-ins straight, but it’s a risk to your identity. If it’s necessary to keep a list of your passwords, store it out of sight and in an unexpected place.

Identity theft can happen in many ways. Using complex passwords is one great way to add more protection and make it more difficult for thieves to gain access to important accounts.

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