10 Most Common Ways You Could Experience Identity Theft


Identity theft is one of today's most common problems among people all over the world. Today's technological advances make for an innovative society, but with that comes newer innovations in the identity theft business. Every day, thousands of people across the country experience what it's like to have your identity stolen. But how does it happen? Here are some of the most common ways your identity can be stolen and ways to protect yourself against them.

1. Engineering Emotions Over the Phone

Also known as vishing, or "voice phishing," identity thieves get personal with this tactic. With vishing, thieves contact a person over the phone and pose as an employee of a legitimate company or organization. They use specific statements and use certain vocabulary to use a person's emotions against them. All of this effort is in the hopes that you will divulge personal information over the phone, but always remember:

  • Any legitimate company will not expect you to divulge critical or sensitive information over the phone.

  • Use your Caller ID function (if available) to screen phone calls. Use a reverse number search to see if the organization calling is legitimate.

2. Digging for Information in the Trash

When you are done with something, you typically throw it away. But thieves will go to almost any lengths to steal your identity, including digging through the trash. Some people will dive in dumpsters and rummage through the trash to find mail or other documents with people's sensitive, personal information on it. This information can be used to do a lot of damage. Instead of being a victim of trash thieves,

  • Use a shredder to shred any documents or mail with personal information on it before being thrown in the trash.

  • Try taking advantage of any paperless billing or statement options provided by the companies or businesses you use, to avoid throwing away any paper.

3. Data Interception on Unsecured Websites

The online world is amazing, but not every website is created equally. If you visit a site that is not secure, you could be leaving your digital information vulnerable to a variety of thieves. Identity thieves can use the lack of protection on these websites to steal your personal information, especially if you are making purchases from the website. Before becoming victim to this type of theft,

  • Ensure the website you are visiting begins with "https."

  • Only exchange information on websites you trust.

  • Use online protection services that prevent unsecured websites from gaining information.

4. Fake Sweepstakes or Contest Winnings

Everyone likes getting gifts and prizes, especially when it comes in the form of winning something. Identity thieves can often disguise their theft practices in the form of fake sweepstakes or prize winnings. You may receive emails, phone calls, mail, or even personal visits from someone claiming that you have won a contest or prize. Then, they may ask for information to verify things, like a credit card or personal information like your social security number. The thieves can then use this information to steal your identity.

You should only be receiving prize winnings from something you've entered, so keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that you have won a prize or contest. In addition, legitimate contests will not ask for sensitive, personal information in an unsecured way.

5. Card Skimming

This method of stealing identities has become increasingly popular in recent years. Card skimming involves a clever, little device that a thief installs onto an existing credit card reader or ATM. This device reads the card's information when you use the reader or ATM, including PIN numbers. This allows thieves to potentially walk away with multiple people's identities. But keeping a sharp eye can help you avoid this scam.

  • The next time you need to use your credit or debit card, check for any noticeable differences in the reader or ATM slot.

  • If you notice that it looks different, it is strangely shaped or has any noticeable attachments, alert management right away and refrain from using it.

6. Wallet and Purse Theft

This is a classic theft tactic that has been practiced since before any of the innovative methods found on this list. If someone steals your wallet or purse, they may have access to important personal information and have everything they need to steal your identity. Your wallet typically holds things like personal IDs, credit and debit cards, insurance cards, and more. And when these things get stolen, your life can get turned upside down. Help avoid this identity theft method by:

  • Limiting what you take with you in your wallet down to necessities for the task at hand. Leave cards, IDs, and other things you will not need at home.

  • Keeping your wallet in a front pocket instead of a back pocket, which limits a thief's access. Keep purses tight over your shoulder and in a position that it cannot be easily pulled away.

  • Investing in things like ID protection services, which can get ahead of any risks if any personal information is stolen.

7. Phishing with False Emails

Most people today receive tons of emails each day. A lot of people also receive a significant amount of spam. Identity thieves have taken advantage of this and use phishing scams to gain some of your most valuable information. Phishing scams are emails sent to people by thieves that are posing as a real company, organization, or even government agency. They pose as these entities in the hopes that you will click on links that will allow you to enter personal information for them to steal.

8. Using Fraudulent Credit Reports

Identity thieves may sometimes pose as employers, agencies, landlords, etc. to gain access to your credit report. Because you may believe they are indeed who they, you may freely provide them access to the credit report. Thieves can tamper with your credit report and use this information to steal your identity. Only allow trusted individuals or agencies to access your credit report and invest in protection services which can monitor your credit report and keep that information safe.

9. Pharming on Secured Websites and Data Breaches

Sometimes, thieves are lucky enough to be able to hack through the protections designed by websites and companies to protect users' information. Banks, retail chains, and secured websites alike can experience breaches in their security. Pharming occurs when hackers take over a secured website and reroute visitors to another site that captures information. When these types of things happen, anyone with a connection to these companies or accessing these websites is now susceptible to identity theft.

10. Intercepting Personal Mail

Some thieves won't even wait until after you've thrown your personal information away before they steal it. You could experience identity theft when someone cuts right to the chase and steals your personal mail from your mailbox or the postal carrier itself. Bank and credit card statements, medical insurance information, and more can be stolen before you even know it was sent to you. If you do believe someone has tampered with your mailbox or your personal mail, alert the local post office and authorities immediately, as it is a federal offense.


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