David Papp Blog

How Identity Theft Happens

Your identity is valuable, and for that very reason, you should protect it. Your personal details are what thieves need to steal your identity. But how do they get it? They use clever ways to steal your information with you none the wiser.

Unlocked mailboxes are an invitation for identity thieves to steal your personal information. It’s so easy for them to take mail sent from your bank or credit card provider and use those details to open an account using your name. Aside from mailboxes, dumpster diving is another way that thieves can access your information after you’ve thrown it out. What’s the solution? Get a locked mailbox and shred all of your mail.

You may or may not have heard of phishing and vishing. Phishing is when thieves send emails from your ‘bank’ asking for your account details and telling you to click on a link. This will then lead you to a fake website where you enter your details. Once you do, the thief has your bank information. Vishing is quite similar to phishing, except thieves call you pretending to be your bank and ask for your personal information.

Thieves, not only want your money, but also your medical and health coverage too. By stealing your wallet or hacking into your hospital’s records, they can access your medical insurance details. They can also steal information by hacking into your database at work, pretending to be a business partner, or stealing disks or files.

Thieves use Spyware that installs itself onto your computer and records your personal information, such as passwords and social security numbers. They also install skimming devices on ATM machines. When you place your card in the machine to access your money, this skimming device records all of your bank account details.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace are perfect places for identity thieves to get your information quickly and easily. They simply access information and pretend to be someone they are not. When they have you convinced, they persuade you to give your personal information to them. Thieves can also use your birthdate and last name on a social networking site to access your personal details.

Ensure that you keep your personal information safe and always be aware. Remember that even children are at risk. Because they don’t usually have a bank account until they reach a certain age, you may not find out about the theft for many years. Seniors are also vulnerable as they have more wealth and are more trusting of others. Students are a good target too because of their frequent changes of address, new credit cards, and unforwarded mail.

18 thoughts on “How Identity Theft Happens”

  1. So this is where the developing of internet and further advancement of softwares is getting us. To a virtual world with no security at all where you fear to click just one link or make any kind of transaction online ore even check out your daily e-mail. Poor Us

    • I’m gonna play the optimist and think that people will always come up with safeguards against identity theft even as technology improves. The blog post is only exploring ways on how identity theft can happen but if we take the precautions to it, I guess it’s not as bad as the world you’ve painted.

      • I agree. While there will be thieves of all kinds — now roaming freely online with up-to-the-minute technology — we can be proactive by staying informed and by taking precautions.

        We can look at it as a problem or as a challenge; I see it as the latter. That’s why I’m always glad to come across helpful tips like these.

        Very good points about medical records. Years ago, I received a bill from a hospital for a heart procedure I had not had. It took several phone calls and letters but I managed to get rid of the bill. To this day, I don’t know how or why this happened.

        That was my one and only experience with identity theft. So I am always cautious and I work hard to stay informed!

    • Well with the advantages of technology there are also disadvantages and identity theft is one of those. I think people need to be more secure about how they use the internet especially the information they give out. It is not wise to type in your credit card information when using a computer in an internet cafe because there is a device that tracks everything combination and thieve attach it to the computer.

      • This is a good point. Never type in sensitive data while on public wifi networks. Only type in that type of data if you are on a secured connection that you trust. The public is very gullible in terms of technology though. They are way too trusting. I think public cafes, restaurants and lobbies should have warning signs put up on the premises that caution users to not key in any sensitive data while on the public network.

  2. Thank you for sharing– it’s a sad, but amazing world of technology we live in. It’s a bit depressing to think that our world is advancing so fast that we can’t all keep up with how to manage our information and that people are taking advantage of us. We are trained to keep things secret (and we should) instead of being open and unafraid to the world around us. Everyone should read this post to remind themselves about how little (haha) they know and how much internet thieves know around them. This is also a great reminder to how everyone on the internet/phone is targeted for their personal information, no matter the age, gender, or race. As Gandalf once said, “Keep it secret, keep it safe!”

  3. Great post. In today’s day and age it’s incredibly easy to be a victim of identity theft. These so called social networks can be incredible tools for such thieves and if we’re not careful these networks can become our own enemy.

    • I couldn’t agree more, now it’s more easy than ever to get your personal data stolen! The computer is making that task way more easier, now thieves don’t have to get their hands dirty surfing thru our trash hoping to find bank statements in there or something similar. I bet not many do that anymore.

  4. I hadn’t heard the term ‘vishing’ before reading your article, but certainly I knew about the practice. The key to avoiding identity theft, or other type of scams, is to think critically about any request for information. If an organization (such as a bank) should know the information, don’t provide it.

    Your article makes a strong case (if one is needed) for being sure to install reputable anti-malware programs. As for theft of documents, common sense such as locking mail; boxes and shredding documents is definitely the way to go. In the end, some eole will always try to do harm to others. That doesn’t make technology bad, it just means the rest of us need to be careful

  5. I like that finger print image with the lock. I recommend a P.O. box or a locked mailbox. That’s a great point made in the article. I know so many people who are victims of identity theft. Good luck out there, it’s a cruel world.

    • Yes, I think a locked mailbox is essential. I’ve always had one as an apartment dweller and it seems strange to me to have a mailbox without a lock. Yet many houses do. Anyone could walk by and snatch the full contents of the mailbox at any time. That’s making it far too easy for identity thieves.

      Perhaps that’s an untapped market for entrepreneurs to sell locks for mailboxes and/or mailboxes with locks already installed.

  6. Much needed post. Identity theft is surely at an all time high due to the internet. I have had my identity compromised in the past, and it is not a good feeling. Thanks for bringing some insight on this issue.

  7. An important article. Identity and privacy concerns are things that are supposed to matter the most when it comes to technology, but unfortunately, they happen to be the most ignored aspects. I haven’t heard much about vishing earlier, but it looks like it is like phishing but it is done from a phone. I was almost a victim of phishing. I got a trade offer on Steam from a hacked account and when the link was clicked, it took me to a website which looked exactly like Steam. However, I was able to find out that it was a fake site from the URL. I would say that people need to take this seriously or it could pose a serious threat to their privacy and identity.

  8. Sticky, isn’t it? While on occasions I have been educating myself on preventing and protecting myself from identity theft, I don’t yet have the means to differentiate preventive measures from alarming security issues. The easiest way to think about this whole thing is probably to convince yourself that the companies are with you in this transition toward a safer society.

  9. Uhm, actually I’m more concerned about my mail, I have told them I don’t want to receive anything from my bank at home, I would rather access any kind of info online. I thought I’d no longer get e-mail from them, but I did just the other day. I found it behind the bushes, whoever delivers our mail couldn’t care less about the safety of our personal date 🙁

  10. I use disposable email addresses to ensure that any data I do share with a company can only be linked back to me via that one unique address.

    I got frustrated that the only services that provide these addresses either limit how many you can have, or are not secure (any email sent to them is viewable on the internet without a password) and the addresses only work for a limited period of time.

    So I created a new system which I’ve made available to anyone else who wants to use it (for free). https://meandmyid.com lets you create unlimited new email addresses, on the fly whenever you need them, and forwards emails they receive to your private inbox. You can block or destroy the addresses when they are abused, or to render all the data gathered on you by the company you gave that email address to completely worthless.

  11. As an avid internet consumer, I see phishing sites EVERYWHERE. Links in YouTube comments, blogs, and more are littered with phishing links. My tip is to never click on a untrustworthy link. These are hard to spot, but with time comes skill.

  12. Uhm, I was actually very worried about identity theft when we still had a credit card. Good thing we had cancelled it some days after we found out someone was trying to charge something on our credit card! Good thing it didn’t go thru! I will never get a credit card again, after that incident I realized I wasn’t safe at all.

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