Thinking Like an Identity Thief

Identity theft can happen to anyone. It can happen as easily as sending too much information in a text message or by leaving an outgoing utility payment in your mailbox. In 2013, 13.1 million consumers suffered some form of identity fraud according to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Report.

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal or financial information and uses it without your permission. Thieves can then drain your bank accounts, ruin your credit reputation, apply for loans and jobs and even commit crimes using your information.

So how can your identity be compromised?

1. Have your purse or wallet stolen – This is one of the easiest and most popular ways identity thieves get ahold of drivers licenses, credit cards, etc.

2. You provide information over phone, through email or on social media – It’s easy for thieves to spoof caller ID or create an email or social media message that spoofs a trusted company or friend. The thieves are convincing enough for you to provide them with private information.

3. Store financial information on your computer or on websites – If your computer is infected or hacked or the website with your stored information experiences a data breach, your identity could end up in the wrong hands.

4. Mail fraud – Leaving outgoing mail (sending a check or paying bills) in your personal mailbox for pickup by the post office is an invitation for someone to steal your information.

5. Using public Wi-Fi signals – Checking bank accounts and entering passwords for websites on unsecured internet signals can leave your information exposed.

6. Tossing out unshredded mail, financial statements and personal documents – Dumpster divers have no shame in rummaging through garbage, especially in attempt to find unshredded personal and financial documents.

Government and regulatory agencies dedicate time and resources to investigate identity theft crimes, but especially with expanding technologies, thieves continue creating new methods to bilk consumers of their hard-earned money.

By taking steps to protect your personal information, consumers can reduce their risk of falling victim. Your Better Business Bureau wants to help you protect your ID! On Saturday, April 26, 2014, BBBs across North America will host “Secure Your ID” Day with FREE shredding events to help you properly dispose of old documents containing personal information.

Click here to find an event near you!

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About Pamela Marlowe

Pamela Marlowe is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Better Business Bureau Serving Western PA (@BBB_WesternPA). Prior to this role, Pam worked as a TV News Producer and Assignment Editor. Pam graduated from Westminster College with a degree in Broadcast Communications and holds a master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Point Park University.