How Identity Thieves Get Your Information

by admin on July 25, 2011

By Jacelyn Thomas

We all know identity theft is a serious problem that is not going away anytime soon. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as nine million Americans experience identity theft each year. At this point, most people are aware of the dangers of identity theft; however, many people do not realize the various ways in which identity thieves obtain your personal information. It is important to learn these methods in order to deny criminals the ability to use them against you.

Online Methods of Identity Theft
There has been a huge shift of focus in the past decade or so to online security and rightly so. Newer technology usually has more holes for possible security breaches, and many people aren’t educated adequately on how to secure and protect their personal information online.

One of the more commonly known identity thefts, phishing occurs when a criminal poses as a financial institution or utility company and sends spam or pop-up messages asking for your personal information, often threatening to suspend your account if you don’t comply. Their posing as other companies can often appear very legitimate and convincing. While phishing mostly occurs through email, it also still happens through physical mail.

Key loggers
By using Trojan horses and other viruses, criminals can put key loggers in your computer that record your passwords, usernames, and credit card numbers that you type into your computer. Using anti-virus software and avoiding suspicious or sketchy sites will definitely decrease the likelihood of this occurrence.

Hacking Accounts
Some criminals will attempt to hack into your online accounts, either specifically targeting your account or by simply hacking into a whole database network that has your account information (among other users). While there is not much you can do if a criminal hacks into your bank’s database, you can minimize damage by keeping unique passwords for every online account you have. That way if someone does hack something like your Twitter account, they can’t easily get into your email or bank by using the same password.

Real Life Methods of Identity Theft
Although there is a lot of emphasis on online security, internet identity theft only accounts for a small fraction of all identity theft fraud cases, even with today’s statistics. In reality, most identity theft criminals use a variety of online and real life techniques to steal your identity, and a lot of the information that they work with initially they find in real life.

Mail Theft
Criminals steal male from postal trucks, collection boxes, and co-op mailing racks. They look for your credit card applications, checks, and bank statements. If you suspect someone is stealing your mail, report it online here.
Stealing Wallets or Purses

Once a criminal has your wallet, they have your credit card numbers, address, driver’s license number, and maybe even your checkbook. While this doesn’t seem like incredibly sensitive information, criminals can do a lot with this, including getting more information.

Dumpster Diving
Criminals will sometimes look through your garbage, trying to find bills and other documents with your personal information. This is why it’s important to shred financial and other important documents with your personal information on it.

In this scary ploy, criminals steal your credit or debit card numbers using a high-tech device that stores information as you swipe your card. ATMs with no bank affiliation that are located outside are most susceptible to have a skimming device installed.

This method is like the inverse of phishing. Rather than posing as your bank, the criminal – after sealing some of your information – poses as you and contacts your bank in order to get more personal information. Criminals attempt pretexting in real life as well as online.


By Jacelyn Thomas

Despite the fact that Mozilla Firefox just recently released an updated version of its open source web browser in late March, the leading internet company has quickly released an even newer version of its successful web browser, Firefox5. The new, updated version promises to be faster and include more than 1,000 improvements–one of which is making the “do not track” option available in Firefox 4 more visible to consumers. This provision allows web surfers to block Web sites from tracking their online behavior for marketing purposes. While Firefox5 has improved its online privacy and security settings, that doesn’t mean there aren’t additional tactics consumers can take to safeguard their browsing experience and prevent against hacking techniques like clickjacking. Add-ons, which are extensions especially designed to increase Firefox’s performance, can in fact help improve online security. The best part? Most of them are free. To learn the top Firefox5 add-ons that can increase privacy and protection, continue reading below.

Web of Trust. This add-on is specifically designed to prevent users from browsing harmful web sites and clicking links that can distribute viruses and steal sensitive information. Using a ranking system of colors, a web site will flash red if the “community” of Web Trust users has labeled the site as threatening. As a member of the community, you are encouraged to label hazardous web sites if you ever come across them to warn future users as well. Cost: Free

Adblock Plus. As if pop-up advertisements weren’t irritating enough, these kinds of ads can actually cause “super cookies” to be installed on your computer and easily grant third parties access to your browsing history. Sometimes this information is used for harmless marketing purposes, other times for malicious activity. In either case, unlike traditional cookies (which are small files that are stored on your computer every time you visit a Web site) super cookies are extremely difficult to delete and/or reject. Thanks to this add-on however, users can control the amount of advertisements that appear on each Web site and even have the option to stop them all together in an effort to prevent super cookies from installing on their hard drive. Cost: Free

No Script. What makes browsing Web sites an exciting and interactive ordeal is unfortunately what can also make it a danger zone. JavaScript, which is a program language that allows users to play online games and look at cool graphics for example, is also the easiest ways for hackers to trick users into revealing sensitive information through CSRF attacks (router hacking), clickjacking, or cross-site scripting attacks (XSS) just to name a few. But because javascript is in fact used on authoritative sites, it wouldn’t be wise to deactivate the feature entirely. This is where NoScript comes into play: it allows users the option of controlling where JavaScript can be ran, such as on trusted site like an online banking website. Cost: Free

LastPass Password Manager. Lastly, the biggest mistake anyone can ever make is create the same password and log-in name for every single site that requires one. This is because if a third party figures out the one password, this means that they will have access to all of your information. That’s why creating multiple, complex, and unique passwords for every site you visit is recommended. But remembering all those passwords can be pretty difficult to do. Fortunately this add-on helps you keep track of your multiple passwords in a safe and encrypted area so that you, and only you, can retrieve the information with ease.


How to Recover from Identity Theft

July 15, 2011

By Jacelyn Thomas Identity theft is a scary reality that an estimated 9 million Americans go through each year. The key to recovering from such a traumatic experience is early detection and quick response. If you or someone you know might be a victim of identity theft, follow these four steps that were drafted by […]

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A Brief History of Identity Theft

July 12, 2011

Identity theft as we know it is a relatively knew incarnation of an ancient crime. As long as humans have operated in a modern society, they have at one point or another conspired to commit identity fraud. Although the first official mention of the phrase ‘identity theft’ didn’t occur in print until 1964, the idea […]

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5 Steps for Protecting Your Child from Identity Theft

July 2, 2011

By Jacelyn Thomas Children make good targets for identity thieves merely because they’re vulnerable. Children don’t have credit and won’t be checking their credit reports until they’re adults, giving thieves more time to accumulate debt using the stolen IDs. A recent study from ID ANALYTICS discovered that more than 140,000 children are victims of identity […]

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