How do thieves steal an identity? A very common question asked by most of the people who have either been a victim or have seen somebody being a victim of identity theft. Identity Theft information is the only source through which one can identify the crime.
Identity thieves steal and use the personal information of individuals to commit identity theft. They use several types of methods to steal the identities of people. Information such as your name, phone number, address, bank account number, etc. needs to be kept confidential so as to protect your identity. This information is targeted by the identity thieves so that they can use this to steal your identity for their personal gains.
The methods through which identity thieves acquire your personal information are as follows:
- Dumpster diving
It is the process of going through the trash to obtain documents such as receipts, credit card bills, bank statements, and other important documents that contain sensitive information.
To keep yourself protected, always shred all the documents before disposing of them in the trash.
- Retrieving storage media devices
Identity thieves retrieve personal data from storage media devices such as pen drives, computers, hard drives, CDs, etc. which are disposed of carelessly.
It is advised to destroy your personal devices before throwing them away.
- Accessing public records
The public records such as government registers, electoral rolls, etc. contain various types of information about several individuals. The thieves gain access to these records to steal your personal information.
This good old method for stealing money is also used to steal your personal documents such as credit cards, driver’s license, identity card, etc. which are generally kept in the wallet.
Keep your wallets and purses close to your body and within your sight to avoid pickpocketing.
Just like pickpocketing, this method is also used to steal personal identification documents along with other valuable stuff.
Always store your personal documents in a secure place such as a safe.
- Mail theft
As the name implies, mail theft is the process of stealing personal mails from the mailbox to acquire sensitive data. Thieves may access your mailbox and read your mails before you could read them.
Always pick up your mails on time and keep your mailbox locked to protect yourself.
- Shoulder surfing
Shoulder surfing is the technique of watching or hearing someone’s confidential information secretly. This technique is usually committed in public places as it is comparatively easy to secretly watch other’s information while they fill out forms, enter passwords, PINs, etc.
Always beware of your surroundings while you are at public places. See that no one is standing near you while you are filling your passwords, PINs, etc.
Skimming is the process of installing skimming devices in ATMs and credit card readers. The thieves install these devices to read the card information and then use this information to acquire finances.
Always look for any suspicious devices while using the ATM.
- Hacking computer networks
Hackers hack computer networks by sending viruses, malware, etc. to gain access to databases having sensitive data.
Never open suspicious emails or pop-ups as they can download malicious software into your device.
- Advertising fake job offers
Criminals advertise fake job offers in the newspaper or the internet to attract job applicants and gain their personal data through applications and resumes.
Don’t fall for such scams. Always conduct a proper research before applying for any job.
- Impersonating trusted organizations
Sometimes criminals impersonate famous companies to trick people into revealing their personal information. The criminals send phishing emails, fake messages, or conduct spam calls to access the information.
Never send back your personal information to someone you don’t know or trust.
- Brute-force technique
It is the technique of attacking weak passwords to reveal them.
Create strong passwords and update them regularly to protect yourself from this attack.
- Browsing social networking websites
The identity thieves browse through the various social networking websites to gather details of individuals to commit identity theft.
Don’t put each and every detail of yours on your social media account. Use strong privacy settings to enable security of your information.
- Wireless Hacking
Hackers can access all your information that you enter while using public networks. These networks are very insecure as they are not encrypted.
Never access any of your accounts while using public networks.
- Creating fake credit card sites
Criminals even create fake credit card websites to “apply for a credit card”! This way the thieves trick people into entering their personal information. These websites look just like the legitimate ones.
Make sure the website is really a legitimate one before entering your personal information by doing proper research.
- Creating fake offers like “free” vacations, gifts, and prizes
You might have received offers of winning free gifts, trips, etc. on emails. For this, they require you to register immediately. This is just a scam to gather your personal information.
Beware of such scams. If you think they are legitimate, do sufficient research.
- Stealing information from the hospital
Even hospitals are the target of the identity thieves. They steal confidential information of patients from the health records present in the hospital.
- Stealing information from pharmacies
The pharmacies do not always destroy the records of prescription holders before disposing of them. Therefore, they become an easy target for the thieves.
All these methods are used widely to steal personal information of people. Therefore, take the necessary precautionary measures to avoid losing your information and protect your identity from theft.