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How ID Thieves Operate

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Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person's identifying information. Identity thieves seek to open credit card or bank accounts, write checks, or obtain loans in the name of other people by stealing personal information like Social Security numbers, birth dates and account numbers. They may obtain this information by:

  • Stealing wallets that contain personal information and credit cards.
  • Stealing bank statements from the mail.
  • Diverting mail from its intended recipient by submitting a change of address form.
  • Rummaging through the trash for personal data.
  • Stealing personal information from workplace records.
  • Intercepting information transmitted electronically.
  • Posing as bank employees over the phone to obtain personal information on some pretext.

Here are some examples of common scams and attempts to collect your personal information:

Phishing

A scam where fraudsters use e-mail, phone calls, or text messages, pretending to be financial institutions or companies, to get you to reveal your personal information.

Lottery scams

Emails or phone calls boasting enticing odds in foreign lotteries. You may even get a message claiming you've already won. Lottery hustlers use victims' bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Pretexting

The practice fraudsters use to get your personal information under false pretenses. Pretexters sell your information to people who may use it to get credit in your name, to steal your assets, or to investigate or sue you.

Skimming

ID thieves steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.

For additional information on these types of scams and more related to identity theft, please visit the following resources:

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - Deter. Detect. Defend. A national resource to learn about the crime of identity theft.

OnGuard Online - Provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

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