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.

Phishing
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.
Skimming

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.

Pretexting
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.

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