Everybody has heard of it, but how does it occur? Identity theft can destroy your credit score and create a nightmare financial situation. Even though you take care to manage your personal and financial information and keep it secret, identity thieves use tricky methods to steal your personal information. Part One of the Identity Theft Methods, Solutions, and Prevention series will explain how this crime occurs.
Thieves target either places of business or similar institutions, or your personal dwellings. In a business, they steal customer’s personal information as it comes to them on the job. This might include customer service personnel or those with access to customer records. If they don’t have direct access, the thief will often bribe another coworker that does have the access to such information. Employees that possess the technical skill have also been known to hack into their company’s computer system to retrieve customers and employee information. Also, thieves often possess the ability to con information out of employees at a business in order to gain access to personal records. Further, non-shredded documents placed in the trash serve as a potential target.
Thieves will also target your household in order to gain your personal records. They will steal mail out of your mailbox and take all of your bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks, and tax information. The trash near your home or in public places serves as a source for identity theft to occur. Any document, from mail to receipts, with your credit card number on it, is a potential source to your private information. Thieves have even posed as landlords, an employer, or someone else who would conceivably have a legal need for your personal information. The more brazen thieves will break into your house, and instead of stealing valuables, they will steal mail and personal documents for use in identity theft. Stealing a purse or wallet serves the same purpose. In addition, the newer practice of “phishing” is occurring when the thief poses as a legitimate company through phone or email and will request that you provide personal information such as bank account numbers and social security numbers.
Now that you know the methods, take care to be aware of whom you divulge your personal information to. Always ask the business of which you are a customer as to what methods they employ to prevent internal and external theft of your personal information. Always use common sense and trust your gut instinct when someone requests your personal information.
Part Two of the Identity Theft Methods, Solutions, and Prevention series will explain how your personal information can be used by identity thieves.