Theft of wallets and purses was once the most common way to obtain identity documents and account information. Today, identity thieves attack virtually every area of an individual’s life, wherever personal information is stored or sent. An identity thief needs only a few strategic bits of your personal information to commit identity theft and fraud. The more accounts the criminals are able to open, the more “evidence” they have that your identity belongs to them. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Dumpster diving in trash bins for credit card statements, loan applications, and other documents containing names, addresses, account information, and SSNs

  • Stealing mail from unlocked mailboxes to get pre-approved credit offers, credit cards, utility bills, bank and credit card statements, investment reports, insurance statements, benefits documents, and tax information

  • Impersonating a loan officer, employer, or landlord to obtain access to credit files

  • Taking advantage of “insider” access to names, addresses, birth dates, and SSNs in personnel or customer files

  • Shoulder surfing when people are using laptops in public places or watching ATM transactions and public phones to capture PINs

  • “Skimming” of credit and debit card information at point-of-sale by copying the card or using a small electronic “skimmer” device

  • Tapping online sources of personal data, such as public records, fee-based information sites, and personal networking sites

  • Hacking into an organization’s database to steal sensitive information

  • Purchasing fraudulent identities on the Internet or through a secondary market