For the most part, ID thieves steal people’s SSN and open multiple lines of credit in their name, procure medical, social security or unemployment benefits, file false tax returns, and even pawn off their criminal charges on you. Others, such as illegal immigrants or runaway criminals simply lead a full life as someone else.
ID thieves obtain your SSN and other information in numerous ways. From old-fashioned wallet stealing or trash nibbling to moderns email phishing scams and corporate database hacking.
Here are but some of the ways your information can get into their hands:
- Stealing your wallet is still a very common way to get your SSN, drivers’ license number, CC numbers, bank accounts and more.
- Stealing your mail is also very common. Bank & credit card statements are an excellent source of information. So are utility bills, tax information etc.
- Going thru your private stuff either at work or at home. In fact, friendly fraud is on the rise. It can be a colleague at work, your neighbor, friend or even a family member!
- Rummaging through your trash for discarded personal data in also common amongst ID thieves. They can rummage your personal trash receptacle, or dumpster dive the work’s/neighborhood’s dumpster.
- Internet/email/phone scams are also gaining popularity. Although they require action from the victim, many are tricked by them. Here is how they work:
- Email phishing is the most popular online scam. You receive an email from what seems to be your Bank, Credit Card Company or other “legitimate” entity, stating that for security purposes you are requested to click on the attached link and fill your personal information for “verification/security” purposes.
The email address, attached link and logo all look very familiar and legitimate, but are in fact far from it. The email is sent from a bogus address, and the link leads to a site that looks just like your banks/CC company. But it is not. You land on a site build by the ID thieve for the purpose of stealing your information.
- Phone scams are very similar. The ID thieve identifies himself as your bank’s or CC Company’s security officer, informing you that “someone” has tried to use your account or credit card and had been blocked by them. He then asks you to “verify” some personal information…
- More recent Internet scams are aggressive, and actually make use of flaws within trusted websites to secretly redirect the unknowing victims to a falsified replica of a trusted financial organization’s website.
- Corporate Database Breaches – Over 900 data breaches have been reported by major firms over a period of three years, and countless more by small businesses, resulting in a total of 200 million records being compromised!
Your mail may be stolen directly from your mailbox, or the ID thieve can complete a “change of address” form and have your mail redirected.
Remember – your Bank/Credit Card Company will NEVER call, asking you to give account or PIN numbers, nor will they email you with such a request.
What can ID thieves do with your information?
Identity thieves are very creative at using your information for their benefits:
- Most retailers offer credit cards and even Visa or Master Card accounts. All the ID thieve has to do is complete a one page credit application using your stolen SSN and a line of credit is issued.
- The ID thieve can establish phone, internet cable and even utility services using your identity.
- He can open bank accounts in your name and write bad checks.
- He can apply for personal loan or even a car loans in your name.
- He can claim benefits in your name (social benefits, medical benefits and even unemployment).