Having seen the 2013 movie Identity Thief directed by Seth Gordon, I began to truly understand how easy it is to steal identities. It is a huge problem in the world today (putting all the comedy aside). Identity theft in the United States is estimated to affect over 9 million people every year. It rose to as high as 13 million in 2015. Identity theft refers to the act of impersonating another person to access their bank account, get their Social Security number, to obtain and abuse a credit card in their victim’s name, or to tap into other resources. We take a look at the various techniques used by identity thieves to steal valuable information from people.
Digging Through Garbage
While this may seem unhygienic and unreal, identity thieves actually search dumpsters for lost or disposed credit card bills, bank statements, lost personal documents, medical bills and insurance, and old financial forms such as old tax forms.
Plain Old Fashion Stealing
Sometimes, they don’t really need to hack your computer and steal sensitive data when your wallet or purse will do just fine. These people thrive on illegally obtaining and using personal information from others. Your purse or wallet is like a bag of gold to them. It probably contain your driver’s license, credit cards, debit cards etc.
Fake Contests and Sweepstakes
Have you ever logged into your email to find messages congratulating you for winning strange contests that you knew nothing about? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Identity thieves use the temptation of prize winnings to lure people into giving them their personal and credit card information. They may redirect you to websites specially designed to extract personal information from you.
Skimming from an ATM
Even the ATMs aren’t safe anymore. Thieves use special data storage devices which are capable of capturing the credit or debit card numbers and sensitive information from the magnetic stripe of the card. This may seem like something out a James Bond movie, but some identity thieves may place a fake PIN number pad over the real one to capture the PIN of their victim as they type it.
Phishing and Impersonation
Phishing scams are trending nowadays. My email is currently saturated with loads of phishing mails all asking me to update my personal information on their website. An identity thief may send an email falsely claiming to be from an organization or website that you’re affiliated with. Then they’ll redirect you to a specially designed website asking you to update your personal information and other sensitive data. These strange phishing websites may be designed to look like the real business or organization website you know, that’s why people hopelessly fall for this.
Data Breaches and Hacking
A corporate data breach is said occur when a corporation’s confidential information is stolen by someone who is unauthorized to obtain the information. The most astonishing data breach I can remember was the 2011 hacking of the Sony PlayStation Network in which the personal details of 77 million users were accessed. The consequence of these kind of breaches is that individuals affected are at an increased risk of having their identities stolen.
A close relative to Phishing, Vishing (Voice phishing) is a scam that is done over the phone. Victims usually receive calls explaining that their bank or credit accounts have been targeted by fraudulent activity. They are then asked to update their account details to ensure that their account is better secured and updated. You and I both know what happens next.
Change of Address
Identity thieves are able to change your mailing address and redirect all your mail to another location. They are then able to sort through your bills and other items of interest for information they can exploit. If you used to receive bank statements and other sensitive data via mail and they suddenly stopped coming without notice, contact the necessary mailing company to find out why.
It’s common practice for people to frequently check out your social network profile (some call it stalking). However harmless it may seem, putting out too much personal information on social networks isn’t advised. It makes you an easy prey for identity thieves and other no-gooders. Using the various privacy options to control accessibility to your personal information is definitely the best thing to do.
There you have it, the 9 best scam techniques used by identity thieves. Now that you know, getting yourself protected online should be your major concern.
Hi there, I’m Emmanuel Ozigi, a Biochemist in the making from Nigeria. In my spare time, I’m a Science, Health, and Fitness blogger. I also specialize in graphic design and photo editing. I also have this insatiable hunger for information and the desire to learn new things. Visit my blog at http://sciencehealth24.com.