Five Simple Ways Your Identity Is Stolen

According to estimates, nearly 60 million U.S. citizens have had their identities stolen, with 15 million Americans falling victim to identity theft in 2017 alone.  (Image: via  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
According to estimates, nearly 60 million U.S. citizens have had their identities stolen, with 15 million Americans falling victim to identity theft in 2017 alone. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

According to estimates, nearly 60 million U.S. citizens have had their identities stolen, with 15 million Americans falling victim to identity theft in 2017 alone. Criminals either sell your identity to a third party or use it themselves to commit further crimes in your name. Information about your identity can get disclosed in many ways. Being aware of them will help you avoid getting scammed.

Fraudulent emails

At some point, every person who uses email will have received messages asking them to share financial information. The email’s sender usually claims to represent a big business, bank, or the government and offers huge financial incentives in exchange for your personal information, such as bank account details. They will also have links to phony websites that look similar to popular financial institutions or government websites.

Skimming credit/debit cards

In this type of identity theft, the criminal will use a storage device to capture data from the magnetic strip of the debit/credit card either at an ATM or at the point of purchase.

If a criminal decides to skim from an ATM, they will attach a fake card reader over the real terminal reader. This allows them to harvest data from all cards that are swiped on the terminal. There are also instances where a fake PIN number pad is placed on top of the real one so as to capture the PIN information when someone uses the number pad.

Another way your credit/debit card details may get stolen is when you surrender your card at hotels and other shops for paying bills. The person who has received your card can take it to another area to swipe it. During the process, they can skim the card and get all the information they want. As a precaution, ask the person to swipe the card in front of you rather than taking it away.

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When you surrender your card at hotels and other shops for paying bills, ask the person to swipe the card in front of you as a precaution. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Airline boarding passes

When people travel by air, many of them have a tendency to put their boarding passes in the trash can once they reach their destination. This is a dangerous habit. A regular boarding pass will contain the traveler’s personal information in the barcode or QR code.

A criminal can simply pick up the airline boarding pass from the trash can, decipher the code, and access details like name, booking reference, E-Ticket number, frequent flyer number, and so on. Information stolen from the boarding pass can allow miscreants to alter or cancel your future flights.

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A criminal can simply pick up the airline boarding pass from the trash can, decipher the code, and access details like name, booking reference, E-Ticket number, frequent flyer number, and so on. (Image: Tzuhsun Hsu via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lottery winner calls

A very common identity theft tactic involves calling a person and saying that they have won a lottery (or some similar prize). The caller will then proceed to psychologically manipulate the person so that they end up revealing financial or other secretive information. While this used to be a widespread identity scam a decade ago, most people are now informed enough to not share personal info over the phone to third parties.

Paper waste

People usually take all their paper waste and dump it into the garbage can. If a dumpster diver collaborates with identity thieves, they can sort through the garbage and find your old bills, financial statements, etc., which can give them access to bank accounts. A good way to avoid such complications is to shred all paper waste before you dump it in the garbage.

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