According to Javelin Strategy & Research, identity thieves stole $16 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. Additionally, since 2011, ID fraudsters have bilked U.S. consumers to the tune of $107 billion.

Now, with the numbers of Americans who potentially had their personal information compromised due to the recent Equifax data breach rising (over 145 million as of late October), more and more financial consumers are asking themselves a simple question: How can I take more aggressive steps to protect my identity and my personal data? Start with these ten smart steps -- and, yes, they're completely free of charge.

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