Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Dumpster Diving – They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming – They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Spoofing and Phishing – They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Shoulder Surfing – They watch over your shoulder when you punch in the numbers and PIN's from a credit or debit card.
- Changing Your Address – They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-Fashioned Stealing – They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
- Pretexting – They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.