What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft, or ID theft, occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent. This could include your name, address, Social Security number, credit card number, bank account information or any combination of these. The imposter intends to commit fraud or other crimes in your name.
Common Methods of Identity Theft
- Physical Theft – A thief may steal your purse out of your car, your phone out of your pocket or your mail out of your mailbox.
- Hacking – Tech-savvy scam artists can break into computer systems or intercept personal information from an unsecure website.
- Phishing – This is an email-based scam in which the thief poses as a representative of a real organization and prompts the recipient to provide personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account information.
- Skimming – Thieves may install a skimming device on an ATM. A skimming device is a small card reader that fits over the existing card reader and has the ability to save a user’s card number and PIN.
- Shoulder Surfing – Shoulder surfers steal your information by watching you enter your PIN at the ATM or eavesdropping as you read your credit card number over the phone.
- Dumpster Diving – Identity thieves may go through your trash, looking for discarded bank statements, credit card offers or medical statements.
- Familiar Fraud – This occurs when the scammer is someone you know, like a family member or friend, who takes advantage of their access to you and your information.
It's possible for you to be a victim of identity theft and not even know it. Early detection is key to fighting identity theft so it's important to recognize possible warning signs that your information has been compromised.
- Unfamiliar activity on your credit report
- Collection calls or notices about accounts you never opened
- Credit report inquiries for loans, credit cards or services you didn't initiate
- Bills, statements or other expected mail doesn't arrive
- Bills or statements arrive for accounts you didn't open
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn't use
- The IRS says your income tax return has already been filed