Personal information can be vulnerable to theft and misuse, with identity theft now one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States.
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to obtain and misuse your personal information, using information such as your birthdate and Social Security number to exploit your existing accounts or open new accounts in your name. Clearing your name of fraudulent charges can take both time and money. Being educated on ways to prevent and handle identity theft should it occur will help you avoid being a victim of this crime.
Thieves use a variety of technologies and methods to obtain your information. Identity thieves may:
- Steal a purse or wallet, personal information from the victim's home, or business information from the workplace.
- Take financial statements, credit card applications, canceled checks, and tax information from mailboxes.
- Divert your mail to a different address.
- Look through your mail for personal data that has been thrown away unshredded.
- Pose as a landlord or employer to obtain your credit report.
- Eavesdrop at ATMs for PINs and card numbers.
- "Phish" for account information via email.
- Record or capture your card numbers and expiration dates while they process your card at a restaurant or retail store. This practice is often called "skimming."