Identity theft can occur any time your personal information has been stolen or otherwise compromised. Unfortunately, there are quite a few ways that your information can wind up in jeopardy.
In order to protect your identity, you should first learn about the different types of identity theft that could potentially affect you. After all, the first step toward protecting yourself is learning what you are up against.
Types of ID theft, from low-tech to high-tech
- Dumpster diving: Believe it or not, identity thieves can learn a great deal about you simply by searching through your trash. From junk mail, to bills to employment information, the dumpster can be a gold mine for criminals.
- Vishing: Vishing occurs when an identity thief calls you on the phone pretending to be someone else. The bogus caller may pretend he or she represents a reputable business or organization and then ask you to provide personal information.
- Phishing: Phishing is similar to vishing, except that it occurs through email. A criminal will send emails to potential victims, often pretending to represent a legitimate organization, and hope that recipients will respond with personal information.
- Smishing: occurs when an identity thief sends you a text message that appears to be from a legitimate source. The message may request personal information or prompt you to click on a link.
- Stolen wallet: If an identity thief is able to steal your wallet, there are many ways he or she can take your money aside from just pocketing the cash. Depending on what you carry around, your stolen wallet could provide an identity thief with instant access to your credit card information, home address, driver’s license information and Social Security number.
- Change of address: A forged change of address is a technique that identity thieves can use to acquire a lot of your personal information. If an identity thief is able to falsify a new mailing address, he or she can then start receiving your mail – bank statements, preapproved charge cards and more.
- Mail theft: Mail theft is a pretty simple crime for identity thieves to commit; they simply have to take the mail from your mailbox before you do. If an identity thief successfully snatches your mail, he or she can then walk away with a wealth of your personal information.
- Shoulder surfing: Shoulder surfing occurs when a criminal gets a look at your information by sneaking into your personal space. Situations where shoulder surfing can take place include when you’re filling out a credit application or medical forms. Shoulder surfers use a variety of techniques, from eavesdropping to snapping photos.
- ATM skimmer: ATM skimmers are devices used by criminals to steal your debit and/or credit card information. ATM skimmers are often inserted over the slot of an ATM in order to collect PIN numbers from unsuspecting victims.
- Data breach: A data breach occurs when a criminal accesses confidential information, often through institutions that collect large amounts of personal data, such as doctor’s offices and banks. Sometimes the information is leaked within the organization and sometimes it is accessed by hackers operating from the outside.
- Online shopping: Tech-savvy criminals are able to create fraudulent websites that look just like their legitimate counterparts. Victims of this crime believe they are making a normal online transaction when they are actually providing their account information directly to identity thieves.
- File sharing: File sharing can be useful when it allows friends and family members to share music and photos with one another. But file sharing can also present a golden opportunity for identity thieves by allowing them to access files from your computer that contain sensitive information.
- Child identity theft: Identity thieves often target the accounts of children because they have no credit history and because their credit often goes unmonitored. Criminals can destroy the credit of child victims before anyone ever notices.