During a long day, you may write a check, charge dinner and a movie, rent a car or apply for credit. In each transaction, you reveal bits of personal information, like your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); including, your name, addresses, and phone numbers. Once a thief has your information, it can be used (without your knowledge) to commit serious fraud or theft.
People who have had their identities stolen can spend months or years and thousands of dollars cleaning up the mess. In addition, identity victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans or credit, and arrested for crimes they didn't commit. Shame, anger and frustration are among the feelings victims experience as they trudge through the process of rescuing their identity.
The following information will give you strategies on how to protect your identity or wrestle it back from thieves.
How identity thieves get your personal information:They get information from businesses or other institutions by:
- While they are on the job, they may steal records, datum, bribe an employee (who has access to these records), hack records, or even con information out of employees.
- Stealing mail, bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks, and tax information.
- Rummaging through trash from businesses or public trash dumps.
- Obtaining credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to them, or posing as property owner, employer, or someone else who may have legal right to access report.
- Stealing credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device in a practice known as "skimming." They may swipe your card for an actual purchase, or attach the device to an ATM where you may enter or swipe your card.
- Stealing wallets or purses.
- Sending a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
- Stealing information they find in your home.
- Stealing information from you through email or phone by posing as legitimate companies and claiming that you have a problem with your account. This scam is known as "phishing" online or “pretexting” by phone.
- Glean information off your business card(s).
How identity thieves use your personal information:
- Call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Since your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be awhile before you realize the problem.
- Open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards, and don't pay the bills, delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
- Set up a phone or wireless service in your name.
- Open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
- Counterfeit checks, credit or debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain accounts.
- File bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
- Buy a car with a loan using your name.
- Get identification such as a driver's license issued with their picture, in your name.
- Get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
- Give your name to the police during an arrest. When they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.