8 Identity Theft Threats to Safeguard Against

The means criminals use to pilfer or filch personal information from victims mutate continually, especially the methods that usually exploit technology. However, the most popular methods include information given away, offline methods and online methods.

Giving away personal information is the easiest way criminals land personal data that enables them commit identity theft. This most often occurs in social networking sites.

Some of the offline methods that criminals exploit to steal victims’ personal data are as follows:

  • Dumpster diving – Identity thieves go through people’s rubbish pits or bins to find items or shreds of paper that show personal information such as credit card, bank statements, envelopes showing a full name, bills and sometimes the logo of a company where an account is currently held.
  • Shoulder surfing – This is where an identity thief looks over the victim’s shoulder as their input their PIN at an ATM, or when the victim is using internet banking in a public place.
  • Wallet or document theft – There is usually plenty of personal information in a wallet. If a thief manages to steal a document or wallet containing personal information, as it is most likely, then the thief can use such information to impersonate the victim.
  • Bogus phone calls – Here the thief pretends to be from a government agency or a legitimate company and then they call the victim and convince them to take some action or provide information.
  • Skimming – The criminals capture the information encoded in the magnetic strips on the back of a card, which information they put onto a blank card and use it to access the victim’s account.
  • Pretexting – The criminal contacts a business impersonating a genuine customer to ask for account information.

There are also a slew of online methods that criminals use to land useful personal information that they can use to pretend to be a certain person and hence get some economic benefits. These include:

  • Phishing – This is the act of luring people to provide information using mirror websites and emails that resemble the emails or websites of legitimate businesses.
  • Hacking – Criminals ca exploit vulnerabilities in an electronic system or in a computer software to access personal data.
  • Other online methods used include spamming, sending of malware, skimming, spear phishing etc.

So how do you prevent identity theft?

The following are steps that an individual can take to prevent identity theft:

  • You should secure your social security number by only giving it out when absolutely necessary. You shouldn’t carry your social security card in your wallet. You should also not write it on checks.
  • Ignore unsolicited requests for personal data.
  • Watch out for shoulder surfers by shielding the keypad when typing personal data.
  • Collect your mail promptly.
  • Watch out for unauthorized transactions.
  • Shred papers that may possess personal info before disposing them in dumpsters.
  • Mount appropriate online security measures.

If you are already a victim of identity theft, then report it without delay. You should file your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and they will issue you with ID theft affidavit, which you will print and file with the local police to get a police report. Some specific types of identity theft need you to report with certain agencies.

In addition to the federal government agencies, it may also be prudent to report to organizations such as Credit Reporting Agencies, financial institutions, retailers and other companies.