Todd’s Note: Identity theft sucks! Not only do you feel violated, but you have to do a lot of work, filing out police reports, calling accounts, etc… to clear it all up. This is time spent on something that you didn’t even have anything to do with! Not only that, companies make it so easy to get credit that many times they don’t verify if the person getting the credit is really you! This is a guest post. To see a previous post by the same author – click here.
You’ve heard the horror stories about identity theft. Hopefully you’ve taken extra precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen to you, but identity thieves can be relentless in their pursuit of your personal information. Here are some of the most common ways thieves get ahold of your identity.
Although it sounds like something to do with the psychedelic funk band, phishing is actually a dangerous hacking tool. With phishing, identity thieves will link you to fake webpages that seem legitimate and ask for private information that is immediately delivered right into the thief’s hands. The best way to avoid phishing scams is to make sure you’re visiting a website’s proper URL, and to utilize anti-phishing extensions built into several web browsers.
Phishing frequently occurs through email, but it’s not the only mail scam you have to watch out for. Hackers love embedding spyware or viruses in spam email messages that can download themselves on to your computer and seek out your data on their own. To protect your system, look for good anti-virus software and be very careful about which emails you open. You might even want to open an email account specifically for junk mail to further protect your main address.
Sometimes identity thieves seek information in the real world by shoulder surfing, or covertly watching you use private information like a PIN number at the grocery store. These thieves might pretend to text on their phone nearby while secretly taking pictures of your ATM card, or they might even have hidden cameras somewhere on their person. Of course, protecting your info from these nefarious spies can be as simple as cupping your hand over the ATM keypad and blocking their view. Just keep an eye out for any suspicious individuals when you are about to use important information.
It sounds like a scam straight out of a sci-fi movie, but skimming actually occurs in real life. Identity thieves can tamper with machines that read your personal info, adding secret devices that record your data. These devices can be attached to ATMs and gas pumps so that when you swipe your credit card, the thief gains access to your bank account. To diminish your paranoia, you might want to check out identity theft insurance. Lifelock offers many different kinds of protection, so when comparing plans consider how easy it might be to have your identity stolen.
Some crooks prefer old-fashioned methods of stealing. If you carry important info in your wallet, like your Social Security card, losing it on the subway can be a huge threat to your identity. The same is true of your cell phone, which can help a thief access your passwords and accounts. Identity thieves will even stoop to dumpster diving to find important mail documents that divulge your info. Always keep track of your phone and wallet and make sure to shred any documents that might reveal your crucial personal information.
Knowing how identity theft occurs is half the battle. If you develop safe internet and security habits and look into getting insurance, you won’t have to worry about losing your identity.
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