The concept of random acts of kindness has grown from a nice idea into a cultural movement over the past decade, and there is even an official celebration of these small gestures. The idea is that we all benefit when we go the extra mile, and that “paying it forward” easily becomes a viral worldwide movement. After all, doing something small may make a world of difference to a complete stranger.

Each year since 1995, time has been set aside for Random Acts of Kindness Week,observed this year during the 12th through 18th of February. More information can be found on the website, but how does identity theft translate into a random act of kindness? It’s actually quite simple.

When you’re aware of the latest threats to your identity, you can pass that knowledge on and possibly prevent a devastating crime from taking place.

For example, a shopper in Alabama was checking out at a major retail store this month, but the POS system wouldn’t take her debit card. The cashier said, “Oh, it’s been doing this for a few days. Ignore the picture on the machine, you just have to turn your card the other way.” The customer asked if all of the registers were having this problem and the cashier replied that no, only that register.

The customer called the manager over and said, “If only one register out of twenty makes you turn your card around, someone could have installed a skimming film in this POS system.” The manager immediately shut down that register until the matter could be investigated.

Elsewhere, a California woman was shopping in a retail chain store when she noticed something out of the ordinary. An elderly man was buying thousands of dollars’ worth of iTunes gift cards. She politely stepped up to ask who they were for, and the man told her a bone-chilling story. He stated that the IRS had called him and told him he was in legal trouble for not filing his taxes correctly. He was instructed to purchase the iTunes cards and call them back with the account and PIN numbers, or he would be arrested.

The woman recognized this common scam and alerted the police immediately. Officers arrived in time to stop the man from purchasing more cards; he had already spent $1,700, but was ready to buy $500 more when they showed up.

In both cases, an observant and knowledgeable bystander came forward to stop a crime in progress. It can be daunting to put yourself out there and interfere in someone else’s business, but keeping quiet about a possible crime can have awful consequences.

The purpose of Random Acts of Kindness Week is that the extra attention we pay to helping someone in need carries on throughout the year. Of course, we’re not expected to only be kind during these seven days, so staying on top of the latest scams and identity theft news will help keep you prepared to take action all year long.

How much information are you putting out there? It’s probably too much. To help you stop sharing Too Much Information, sign up for the TMI Weekly.