Top Ten Ways Identity Thieves Get Your Information

Identity Theft Can Cost You Thousands

Businessman Searching Through Garbage Container
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Identity theft is when someone fraudulently uses your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address, for their financial gain, including to obtain credit, get a loan, open a bank, or credit card account or obtain an I.D. card.

If you become the victim of identity theft, chances are it will cause severe damage to your finances and your good name, especially if you do not find out about it immediately.

Even if you catch it quickly, you can spend months and thousands of dollars trying to repair the damage done to your credit rating.

You can even find yourself accused of a crime you did not commit because someone used your personal information to perpetrate the crime in your name.

Consequently, it is important in today's electronic age to protect your information as best you can. Unfortunately, there are thieves out there just waiting for you to make a mistake or get careless.

There are different ways that identity thieves go about stealing the personal information of others. Here are the most common methods used by identity thieves and ways for you to avoid becoming their victim.

How Do Identity Thieves Get Your Information?

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving is when someone goes through trash looking for personal information that can be used for identity theft purposes. Identity thieves look for credit card bills, bank statements, medical bills and insurance, and old financial forms such as old tax forms.

Stealing Your Mail

Identity thieves will often target a person and steal mail directly from their mailbox. Thieves will also have all of the mail redirected through a change of address request made at the post office. The identity thieves are looking for bank statements, credit card bills, tax information, medical information and personal checks.

Stealing Your Wallet or Purse

Identity thieves thrive by illegally obtaining personal information from others, and what better place to get it but from a purse or a wallet. A driver's license, credit cards, debit cards, and bank deposit slip, are like gold to identity thieves.

You Are a Winner!

Identity thieves use the temptation of prize winnings to lure people into giving them their personal and credit card information over the phone. The identity thief will tell the person that they have won a contest for a free vacation or some grand gift, but that they need to verify personal information, including their date of birth, to prove they are over 18-year-of-age. They will explain that the vacation is free, except for the sales tax, and ask for the "winner" to provide them with a credit card. They usually make it sound like a decision must be made immediately, or the person will lose the prize.

Skimming Debit or Credit Card Numbers

Skimming is when thieves use a data storage device to capture the information from the magnetic stripe of credit, debit or ATM card at an ATM or during an actual purchase. 

When skimming from an ATM, thieves will attach card readers (called skimmers) over the real terminal card reader and harvest data from every card that is swiped.

Some thieves place a fake PIN number pad over the real one to capture victims' PINs (personal identification numbers) as they enter it. Another common way to do this is by installing tiny cameras to capture the PIN entered on the number pad. Shoulder surfing, which is when a person reads over the shoulder of the card user, is also a common way to obtain personal identification numbers.

Once the thief has returned to the ATM and collected the file of stolen information, they can log into an ATM and steal money from the harvested accounts. Other thieves clone the credit cards to sell or for personal use.

Skimming can occur anytime someone with a digital card reader gains access to your credit or debit cards. It can be done easily when the card is surrendered, such as in restaurants where it common practice for a waiter to take the card to another area to swipe it.

Phishing

"Phishing" is a scam in which the identity thief sends an email falsely claiming to be from a legitimate organization, government agency or bank, to lure the victim into surrendering personal information such as a bank account number, credit card number or passwords. Often the email will send victims to a phony website that is designed to look like the real business or government agency. eBay, PayPal, and MSN are regularly used in phishing scams.

​Obtaining Your Credit Report

Some identity thieves will obtain a copy of your credit report by posing as your employer or rental agent. This will give them access to your credit history including your credit cards numbers and loan information.

Business Records Theft

Business records theft involves the theft of files, hacking into electronic files or bribing an employee for access to files at a business. Identity thieves will sometimes go through the trash of a business to get employee records which often contain social security numbers and customer information from charge receipts.

Corporate Data Breaches

A corporate data breach is when a corporation's protected and confidential information is copied, viewed or stolen by someone who is unauthorized to obtain the information. The information can be personal or financial including names, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, personal health information, banking information, credit history, and more. Once this information has been released, it will likely never be recovered and the individuals affected are at an increased risk of having their identities stolen. 

Pretexting

Pretexting is the practice of obtaining someone's personal information using illegal tactics, then selling the information to people who will use it to, among other things, steal the person's identity,

Pretexters may call and claim that they are calling from the cable company and doing a service survey. After exchanging pleasantries, they would ask about any recent cable problems, and then ask if you mind completing a short survey.

They may offer to update your records, including the best time of the day to provide service to you and the obtain your name, address and telephone number. People will often volunteer information to cheerful, helpful company representatives who are good listeners.

Armed with the personal information, the pretexter may then decide to do a search for public information about you, and learn your age, if you are a homeowner, if you paid your taxes, places that you lived before, and the names of your adult children. They may look at your social media profile to learn about your work history and the college that you attended. They will then call companies you are associated with to gain enough information to get access to your financial information, health records, and social security number.