Ways Identity Thieves Can Obtain Your Personal Information

A criminal can obtain personal information on another person in order to commit identity theft in many ways. “Dumpster Diving” is a method perpetrators use by going through a person’s garbage, communal dumpsters, or trash bins. These criminals can obtain copies of checks, credit card statements, bank statements, receipts, and carbons. The criminal will search for anything bearing your name, address, telephone number, and social security number.

credit-card-fraudAnother way identity thieves can obtain information is through “Shoulder Surfing”. This is a method perpetrators use by looking over an individual’s shoulder while in a checkout lane and memorizing the information on a check or a credit card. The perpetrator can also get calling card information or credit card information by looking over the shoulder of a person on a public telephone or just by eavesdropping if someone is giving their credit card information over the phone.

“Skimming” is another way for information to be obtained. There are different types of skimming. A waiter at a restaurant may take a person’s credit card to process their bill and then make a copy of the card. A store clerk can copy a credit/ debit card number from the carbon that the store keeps from a person’s receipt. Also, skimming can occur when a criminal attaches a small skimmer device to an ATM machine and when the individual slides their card through, it records the magnetic stripe details.

The internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain personal data. The novelty of the internet encourages people to explore. They often respond to unsolicited emails that promise them something but require personal data from the person to process the request. In most cases, there is no intention of giving out anything. Today, half of all credit card fraud is conducted on-line. (Department of Justice, 2013)

“Phishing” is yet another method to obtain someone else’s personal data. Phishing is the act of emailing a person and stating there is a problem with their account, then requesting personal information so the problem can be corrected. A new phishing scam that banks must face, which is hard to identify, is when a bank customer opens an email or even deletes the email without clicking on any embedded links, there is an program attached to the email by the criminal who silently runs a script. When the banking customer logs onto there bank website the code redirects the person to a fraudulent web site. (Federal Trade Commission, Ramsaran)

“Pretexting” is the act of calling a victim on the phone and stating they have a problem with their account and they need to verify information to fix the problem. (Federal Trade Commission)

“Spoofing” is when an individual receives fake email messages from a recognizable company requesting an update on their information. The website is hyper-linked and when accessed the criminal is able to obtain the individuals logon and password. (Urrico)

“Pharming” is a technique criminals use by setting up a phony web server and intercepting user names and PIN numbers. (Urrico)

Perpetrators can also obtain personal information by bribing employees who have access to personal records, stealing records while on the job, conning information out of employees, hacking personal records, stealing your wallet or purse, or stealing from your home. (Collins, Federal Trade Commission)

Criminals can also pose as a legitimate business and buy personal information from companies that collect personal data to be sold for verification purposes such as a background check on a potential employee. (Data Security)

When criminals use the skimming technique that copies the magnetic stripe of a credit card, they can sell the stripe on the black market and from there the stripe can be cloned to make several cards. (Credit Card)

  • Criminals can use credit cards or debit cards to go on shopping sprees. They will often buy large, expensive items such as computers, TVs, and stereos that are easily sold.
  • Criminals can open new credit card accounts or loans in the victim’s name and when the bills are not paid, the delinquent accounts are reported on the victim’s credit report.
  • Criminals can open wireless services or establish a phone in the victim’s name.· Criminals can open bank accounts and write bad checks or authorize electronic transfers and drain the victim’s bank account.
  • Criminals may buy a car in your name or file for bankruptcy for debt they have incurred using your personal information.· Criminals can avoid law enforcement by using a victim’s name during an arrest. When the victim does not show up to court, because they were unaware, there is a warrant issued in the victim’s name.
  • Criminals can fraudulently use calling cards. (Hamilton)
  • Criminals can submit a change of address form redirecting mail to the perpetrators address so victims do not know there is a problem until it is too late.
  • Criminals can establish false identities by obtaining a driver’s license with their picture and the victim’s information.
  • Criminals can get a job or file for fraudulent tax returns. (Federal Trade Commission)

While you can’t prevent identity theft entirely, you can lower the chances of becoming a victim by making smart daily decisions regarding who sees your personal information.  You can also enlist a paid or free credit monitoring service from a trusted provider to alert you in the event your identity was compromised.

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