|Chapter 1: Common Practices
Your wallet is missing. Thousands of dollars have been charged to your credit cards, your checking account is empty, and loans you never took out appear on your credit report. What happened? You’ve been a victim of identity theft – an increasingly common and inventive crime.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. It may also involve computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and financial institution fraud.
Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to substantially reduce the chance of identity theft occurring, as well as steps to recover from any damage if you are a victim.
How Your Information is Obtained
Thieves use a variety of illegal techniques to obtain identity information. They may:
- Take mail from a mailbox
- Divert mail to another location by filling out a change of address form
- Go through trash to find identification and financial documents
- Access credit reports by posing as landlords or employers
- Hack into personal computers
- Pose as legitimate companies or government agencies to request personal information via email (called phishing) or text message (called smishing)
- Steal hard copy or electronic files from your workplace
- Stand close to you at the ATM to learn your Personal Identification Number
- Attach a skimmer to an ATM to capture your card number and PIN
How Your Information May Be Used
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they may use it to:
- Charge on existing credit accounts
- Open new credit accounts in your name
- Use existing or open new checking accounts in your name and write bad checks
- Establish phone or wireless service in your name
- Use your debit cards or counterfeit checks to drain your checking account
- Take out loans to buy cars and other big ticket items