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How Is Identity Theft Carried Out?

By Janet Lacey
Published: Friday, November 13th, 2009

Identity theft is a major crime that all of us need to beware of in current times. With each passing year, the incidence of identity theft is increasing along with the enormity of crimes committed through ID theft. In order to guard against identity theft, you first need to know about all the ways by which your identity may be stolen. Unlike a case of burglary or common place stealing, victims of identity theft hardly get to know their identity has been stolen till a long time has passed. It is very hard to know when an identity gets stolen, because it often happens in dubious ways that most people do not know of. 

Some of the main ways used by identity thieves for stealing personal identifying information are: 

Dumpster Diving: Many people will tell you that the internet is the main source by which your identity gets stolen. However, the truth is that old fashioned ‘dumpster diving’, which refers to looking through your trash for papers carrying personal identifying information, is an extremely common method used by ID thieves.  A refined form of dumpster diving is plain snooping, where people from your office or outsiders in your home may snoop through your personal documents in order to commit identity theft. Make sure that you always shred any bills, statements or documents that may carry personal or financial information. At the same time, do not leave such documents lying on your desktop at work or even at home. 

Skimming: A small hand held device is often used by people manning the payouts at restaurants, stores, gas stations etcetera. These employees store your credit or debit card details when they process your transaction. In some cases, crude identity thieves may simply write down your credit or debit card number in order to misuse it later. Paying close attention whenever you make a payment through a card is important if you want to prevent identity theft through skimming. 

Online Identity Theft: Online identity theft mainly happens through two ways. The first is “phishing”, which refers to a situation where pops ups and mails, asking for revelation of personal information are sent to victims under the name of a reputable organization (bank, government, Credit Card Company). Your credit card company or bank will never ask for personal information online unless you are on their own secure site, handling your own account. Another manner by which identity theft is being carried out online is through spy ware, which are programs that are downloaded onto your computer through disreputable sites which then use it for accessing your personal information like email ID, passwords, usernames etcetera. 

Pretexting: Many smart identity thieves will call you, pretending to be personnel from your bank, utilities company or telephone service and ask for personal information, on some pretext or the other. Pretexting is easy and simple, and to avoid it, you should never divulge any information over the phone. In case you encounter such an enquiry, it is a good idea to call up the company from which you supposedly received the call and identify if such a call was actually made. 

Change of Address: The identity thief will fill out a change of address form to direct billing information to another address. This way, thieves may run up bills in your name which you will not even be aware of. To keep a tab on this, keep checking your credit reports regularly.

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