Identity theft is a scary subject. It seems like each day there is a news story about some new way people are trying to steal your information, or there is another story of somebody whose life was ruined by an identity thief. However there are things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a news story, and it all starts with knowing some of the more common ways people can steal your information.
The first way thieves can steal your info is by use of a skimming device. A skimmer is something that a thief can attach to an ATM or a checkout card reader and it allows them to copy the data on the magnetic strip of your credit card. Then they copy the data onto a fake or spare card which they can then use like one would normally use a credit card. The new EMV chip cards that everyone has are supposed to prevent this because they create a new code for every transaction so if a hacker obtains the code from that transaction it can’t be used again, thus keeping your money safe.
Another way thieves can steal your information is via phishing. What is phishing you ask? Well it’s a lot like fishing, the thief is essentially casting thousands of rods hoping that something bites. When phishing the thief poses as a company or a Nigerian prince or various other things, and they ask for your personal information. An example:
Subject: YOU WON!!
Body: Remember that contest you totally entered and we aren’t making up? No? Well me either! Just fill out the below information so we can get you your prize!
Social Security Number:_____________ Birthdate:_____________
Okay, so maybe the e-mail won’t be that silly, but you get the idea (also if you get an email like that you shouldn’t even open it).
Not all ID thieves use technology to steal your information. Some people simply look over your shoulder as you input your pin into an ATM or credit card checkout, or other personal information. Always try to cover the keypad when entering sensitive information. Some thieves like to get down and dirty by digging through your garbage looking for sensitive documents/mail, such as a pre-approved credit card, which the thief might try to activate. In order to prevent this type of thing you should shred any sensitive documents, or use them as kindling in your fireplace.
These are just some of the ways that thieves can steal your information, it would take way too long to go over everything, but I will leave you with some general tips that should help you reduce your chances of becoming the victim of an identity thief.
Be on the lookout for bulky card readers (should be flush with the machine), and possible keypad covers on ATM’s. If it looks fishy, avoid it.
Frequently check your bank statements and credit reports
As mentioned above, avoid sketchy emails, but also avoid sketchy websites
As mentioned above, destroy documents with important information on them, including pre-approved credit cards
As mentioned above, cover any keypads when typing in your PIN
Use complex passwords to keep thieves guessing, change it once in a while just in case
Identity theft is a scary thing, but by implementing some of the measures above, as well as some common sense you should greatly reduce your chance of becoming your local news’ latest sob story.
Buck, Kristen. "10 Ways Thieves Steal Your Id." Top Ten Reviews. Top Ten Reviews, 05 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 July 2016.
"Identity Theft." U.S. Department of Justice. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 July 2016.
"Identity Theft." U.S. Government's Official Web Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 July 2016.
Woolsey, Ben, and Emily Starbuck Gerson. "Credit Card Skimming Information and Prevention." CreditCardscom News. Credicards.com, 06 Jan. 2011. Web. 05 July 2016.
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