How they get your information.
A lost or stolen wallet is just one way for a thief to get your information.
They can fraudulently access your credit report by posing as an employer, loan officer, or landlord. Internet records that are unprotected is another source.
Some will go dumpster diving looking for bills or other papers with your personal information on it.
Many people receive daily offers for credit cards.
If you’re not interested, you just throw it away. Thieves love finding these! The problem of criminals rummaging through bins for such documents is well known and there have been reports of organized gangs paying people to pick through landfill sites for such documents.
A change of address form can be used to divert billing statements to another location. This will give them access to your credit card numbers.
Shoulder surfing is done at the ATM machine and phone booths. This means the criminal will stand behind you as you enter in your PIN number or phone information.
Police have already arrested several individuals copying cards using the cash machines themselves.
A small electronic camera is mounted above the keypad of the cash machine and a card reader, often only a few centimeters thick, goes over the card slot.
At a busy machine hundreds of card numbers can be collected in a few hours and turned into cloned cards.
The wide availability of small card scanners has also made card skimming a problem. In a matter of seconds your card’s magnetic strip can be copied and a crooked employee of a restaurant or retail outlet can copy many cards in a day.
By far the biggest problem with identity theft is ‘social engineering’: this means someone obtaining information by deception, and usually involves some form of incentive or plain old-fashioned flattery. A veneer of officialdom also oils the wheels and it’s a surprisingly effective technique.
Several recent experiments have shown that nine in 10 people would give up computer passwords in exchange for a small gift like a chocolate bar when questioned by someone holding a clipboard. All too frequently people give out sensitive information over the telephone when they have no proof that the person at the other end is who they say they are.
While identity theft committed in this manner still accounts for the majority of fraud, security experts are warning that such attacks are increasingly being abandoned in favor of electronic methods.
One of the most dangerous methods of identity theft used online is key logging, which bypasses documents altogether. Here a piece of software records every keystroke made on the computer, including all of your log-in details. Such software is generally spread by viruses or as attachments in spam.
Email in particular allows personal contact with millions of people at the push of a button and fraudsters have taken advantage of this. It has also allowed for the merging of old and new types of identify theft to create potentially devastating crimes such as phishing.
This is another old con in modern form and involves setting up a plausible looking website that claims to be an online business.
It’s a cheaper, more anonymous variant of fly-by-night operators setting up stalls in abandoned shops.
Visitors are encouraged to input personal information, usually after receiving an email requesting they confirm log-in details or check the status of an order. Such emails are sent out to millions of addresses and usually contain warnings that action must be taken immediately in order to frighten the recipient into acting without thinking.
This is an especially scary way of obtaining your information since most of these e-mails are very, very real looking. The non-educated consumer can easily be taken in by simply clicking on a link and entering in a password.
This is especially common for people who have Pay Pal accounts or who sell at online auction sites like eBay.
Web monitoring and hosting companies work hard to shut these websites down within days but they can harvest thousands of account details in that time. Online banks in particular have been targeted but so too have eBay and PayPal.
An even more advanced, and harder to detect, form of this con has come to light recently nicknamed pharming.
This involves criminals using computer security holes to reprogram computers that allocate the addresses for all web pages so even if you key in the correct web address, your web browser may be directed to a bogus site. Such attacks are technically possible although none have been confirmed as yet.
There are many ways criminals can access your personal information.
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