It’s a horrible thing to come home and find that burglars have ransacked your stuff. From overturned drawers to the loss of your personal treasures, it strikes at your heart.

But the worst part is when thieves pilfer documents, checks or credit cards that allow them to steal your identity. Although you may not realize those items are missing at first, their loss can have financial consequences much more severe than a missing television or stereo system. Truth is, experienced thieves don’t need much information to break into your bank account or swipe your credit card.

So if you’ve been burgled, start by assuming that the burglar has stolen your personal information. Call your bank and credit card company ASAP. You can get a new card or new bank account numbers so you still have access to your funds.

Don’t touch anything, even the door knobs, until after police have arrived. They may be reluctant to take fingerprints, but you should insist on it. The prints will stay on file and get checked against current and future criminal data bases. Cops may not find the person immediately, but they may match the criminal at some point down the road, especially if it’s a neighborhood serial burglar, which is often the case.

Keep your most valuable stuff in hiding. Forget about the most obvious places like under a mattress, in a drawer, on a closet shelf or in a cereal box. One fairly inexpensive option are ‘book safes’ — hollowed-out books that look like all the others in your library. Keep bank or credit card statements where they can’t be easily found. Cut up and destroy all old credit cards, driver licenses and other expired forms of personal identification. You also may want to consider purchasing a safe. A safe isn’t cheap, but if it’s a good one that properly installed it can be a great way to keep your personal and financial information safe at home.