How Does A Thief Get Your Personal Information?

In most cases, a criminal needs to obtain personally identifiable information or documents. They may steal this information from your home, workplace, while you are in public, or through the use of some online scheme.

Identity Theft in the Home:

  • Mail Theft - If your mailbox is unlocked or unattended, your mail can easily be stolen. Identity thieves steal incoming and outgoing mail, including bank statements, credit card bills and shipments of new checks and tax forms.
  • Access Personal Papers - Identity thieves can be people you admit into your home, such as contractors, repairmen, housekeepers and other household employees - or sometimes even neighbors, tenants, roommates and relatives. The majority of thefts are committed by someone the victim knows. Keep all bills and other paperwork out of view and in locked or secure drawers or file cabinets.
  • Dumpster Diving - Your trash contains old bills and statements, cancelled checks, pre-approved credit offers and pay stubs, all of which are useful to identity thieves.
  • Defraud by Phone - Identity thieves can use telephone scams to trick victims into providing personal information over the phone. For instance, a thief might pose as a representative from your credit card company and ask you to “confirm” information such as your account number and expiration date.

Identity Theft in the Workplace:

  • Steal Personal Belongings - Unattended purses, wallets and briefcases are prime targets for identity thieves. Any easily accessible personal documents that you keep at work are also subject to theft.
  • Access to Personnel Files - Anyone with access to the paper or electronic personnel files in a Human Resources Department can obtain social security numbers and date of birth, as well as a host of other pieces of personal data.

Identity Theft in Public:

  • Steal Personal Belongings - Identity thieves often use purse-snatching, pickpocketing and “smash-and-grab” car break-ins to steal personal information. They also may gain information from lost bags, wallets and other belongings.
  • Shoulder Surfing - Occurs when someone looks over your shoulder while you are at an ATM and reads your PIN number as you type it in. This method can also be used to capture calling card numbers at pay phones.
  • Skimming Credit Cards - Skimming occurs when someone to whom you have give your credit card for payment swipes the card into a portable electronic device, gathering all the personal information the card contains.

Identity Theft Online:

  • Phishing - Occurs when thieves use the facade of a legitimate company to solicit personal information.
  • Spyware - This is software that collects personal data from your computer without your knowledge or permission.
  • Fraudulent Shopping Sites - Some identity thieves set up fraudulent e-commerce sites offering various goods and services that they advertise through spam or online price comparison sites. When you place an order on the fraudulent site, the thief can obtain your name, address and credit card information.
  • Wireless Snooping - Identity thieves can connect to unsecured wireless networks and steal private information directly from computer file and data transmissions.

Identity Theft via 3rd Parties:

  • Data Breaches - Though you can take precautions to limit the chance that an identity thief can steal personal information from you, thieves may still be able to steal your information from third parties that have your information on file, such as credit card companies, your employer and restaurants

Unfortunately, the very nature of the crime, identity theft, is changing and evolving every day. This is due in large part to rapid technological advancements and the inability of governing bodies to pass legislation governing the use of new technology. Therefore, despite your best efforts, a determined thief may still be able to access your personal information. However, established prevention tips can proactively reduce the risk of you falling victim to identity theft.