Identity theft has been named one of the biggest threats to businesses and consumers around the nation, as more criminals continue to steal personal and financial information through a variety of methods. This week was declared National Protect Your Identity Week in an effort to raise awareness regarding best ID verification practices and general security. Equifax recently listed some of these methods, including ensuring all documents that have any personal information, such as Social Security numbers and birthdays, are stored safely at all times. According to the firm, the Federal Trade Commission recorded close to 280,000 identity theft cases last year, which was an 11.6 percent increase from 2010. "Identity theft is a crime we all need to be aware of because all of us, including our family members, are vulnerable," Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions unit at Equifax, explained in a statement. "But by being mindful of how and when you share your information, you can reduce your risk of being targeted." Businesses, especially merchants, share a major part of the responsibility to deter identity theft, as many thieves steal banking and personal information from businesses. By ensuring the proper disposal of all records containing personal information and storing banking information securely, businesses can be safe from the threat of criminals.