It's really very easy! All they need is your name, address, date of birth, social security number, or credit card number. Once a thief has this information they can ruin your credit, drain your bank accounts and generally destroy your reputation. Unfortunately, it may take years to straighten out the problem. Where do they get this information? Basically, anytime that you give someone personal information, whether verbally or in writing, a potential thief can use the information for their own gain. Fortunately, reputable companies protect your information. Therefore you should only deal with companies that have an established reputation for honesty. If you deal with people or companies that are unknown to you, check them out thoroughly before doing business with them.
Many times people unwittingly give information when completing surveys or questionnaires, or when talking to strangers over the phone who ask for information in exchange for goods or services. Even papers in your trash can provide valuable information for thieves. Invest in a home shredding device and shred your important documents instead of throwing them in the trash.
Skilled identity thieves can also get information from businesses or other institutions by stealing records from their employer, bribing an employee who has access to these records or hacking into the organizations computers.
- Rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses or dumps, in a practice called "dumpster diving."
- Obtain credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to credit reports, or by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legal right to the information.
- Steal credit and debit card numbers as your card is processed using a special information storage device in a practice known as "skimming."
- Steal wallets and purses containing I.D., credit and bank cards.
- Steal mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, or tax information.
- Complete a fraudulent "change of address" form to divert your mail to another location.
- Steal personal information from your home or vehicle.
- Scam information from you by posing as a legitimate business person or government official.