Eye Scan

Identity theft is a serious problem. It can cost you hundreds of dollars, damage your credit, and even land you in jail. It helps to avoid these problems if you know how thieves try to steal your information.

Here are the top 10 ways a thief will try to find your identity:

1. Your wallet

The easiest way to steal your identity is to steal your wallet. It usually contains your drivers license and credit cards. Sometimes they may hit the jackpot and also get your social security card.

Never have your purse or wallet where it is easily accessible. One scheme that is increasing in popularity is to use an accomplice to distract a store clerk while the other team member goes behind the counter and grabs a purse. They are out the door and long gone before anything can be done to stop them. The distraction from seeing your purse taken out the door also gives the accomplice time to get away.

2. Your mailbox

It’s obvious that your outgoing mail be an easy source of personal information such as checking accounts and credit card information. Incoming mail can be a source of information as well. Stealing if from an unlocked mailbox is easy. If you have been expecting a bill or two that haven’t arrived on time, be suspicious. That information could already be in the hands of a thief.

3. Your glove compartment

An unlocked car is an invitation to a filing cabinet most people call a glove box. Even storing vehicle registration and insurance cards required for driving can be risky. But many people store many other papers there as well. Credit card receipts, gas cards, and other information should not be stored here. Keep your car locked at all times.

4. Your trash

“Dumpster diving” is an easy source of identity information. Many victims never gave a thought about the bills they threw out or the credit offers they discarded. Any papers that contain information thieves can use should be shredded before it goes in the trash. It’s easier for them to move on to the next trash bin than put all those tiny pieces of paper back together.

5. Skimming

Devices are available that can swipe credit cards and store their information. This is a particular problem in busy stores and restaurants where a credit card is given directly to a clerk to charge. Keep an eye on what happens to your card.

6. Phishing

Fraudulent email is frequently sent spoofing banks, PayPal, eBay, and other places you might have business dealings. They offer a link to click on that will take you to a login page for that business. Sometimes those landing pages are a very good imitation of the real thing. However, all they want is your login ID and password. This is be used to access your accounts. Instead of using their link, always go directly to your login page.

7. Change your address

Filing a change of address with the post office can divert your mail to someone trying to steal your information. This can consist of bank and credit card statements, utility bills, and other accounts. If your mail suddenly stops, investigate immediately.

8. Pretexting

Over the phone, unscrupulous individuals may pretend to be a business to convince you to give out personal information. Be particularly wary of someone asking you to confirm information such as your social security number.

9. Spyware

Unless you are careful, programs that monitor the use of your computer can be installed on your machine without your knowledge. If you have children, this is a particular problem. They may visit risky sites offering games and other downloadable programs. When installed, your computer can use the internet to transmit your private information such as your bank login and password.

10. Burglary

It used to be burglars broke into your home or business to find money and other valuables. Today, your identity can be much more valuable than the cash you keep in your home. Keep your personal information hidden or locked away for burglars cannot find it.

Break ins at places where you do business are another concern. When businesses are robbed, credit information is a valuable commodity that can be sold to other thieves. And sometimes businesses throw out old records containing your valuable information. This can be stolen by dumpster diving.

If you are aware of how identity thieves get your information, you can be prepared to protect yourself.

Let me know if you have any others I missed or stories of you or someone getting their identity stolen.