Are you at Risk of ID Theft?
Certain practices make you more vulnerable to identity theft. If you answer “Yes” on two or more of the following questions you are in a high risk category, and you should to take immediate action to protect yourself.
- Do you often receive “pre-approved” credit card offers in the mail?
- Do you receive “convenience checks” from your credit card companies in the mail?
- Do you throw away statements, convenience checks, or pre-approved offers without first cross-shredding them?
- Do you carry your social security card in your wallet or purse?
- Is your mailbox unsecured or unlocked?
How They Do It
Twenty percent of victims have a pretty good idea how their information was obtained—usually the result of a stolen purse or wallet. The remaining 80% have no idea how the thief obtained their information. This statistic should scare you—a full 80% of identity theft victims have no idea when or how their private personal information was accessed.
Identity thieves are more sophisticated than the average burglar. They employ several techniques to make you their next victim. New words and phrases have been created to describe their unscrupulous tactics, including “dumpster diving,” “skimming,” and “pretexting.” However, thieves have no qualms about using old-fashioned tactics like stealing your purse or wallet too. With a little understanding of their methods, you will be well on your way to successfully protecting yourself from these crooks.
Thieves rummage through your garbage in search of account statements, social security numbers, phone numbers, receipts, passwords or PINs, and other documents with your personal information.
Thieves slide your credit card through a small electronic device that captures the account number and your personal information. This is used at restaurants and other locations where you voluntarily give your credit card to someone (e.g., waiter) and do not have constant visual access to its whereabouts. Perpetrators use a small handheld device, about the size of a credit card, and in less than two seconds can swipe the information from your card.
Thieves contact their victim and pose as a representative of a bank, investment company, credit card company, employer, government agency, etc. and attempt to “verify” account numbers, passwords, PINs, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. It is easy for a thief to obtain your credit card statement from your trash and convince you they are a customer service agent from your credit card company. Thieves may even pose as a representative from the fraud protection division (under this guise you will be more inclined to cooperate with their questions). When they tell you your charge for $329.65 on March 3rd at Best Buy didn’t process correctly, why wouldn’t you believe them?
Old Fashioned Theft
Thieves are still adept at stealing purses and wallets. They use the credit cards to make large purchases and use whatever other personal information they find. I had one credit card stolen from a health club gym locker secured by a fairly heavy-duty lock. They didn’t steal my entire wallet, just one credit card. I was lucky that I discovered it within a couple of hours, but at that point they had already been on a shopping spree with my card.
Thieves will steal mail from mailboxes in the middle of the day—sometimes even posing as mail carriers. Your mail contains a treasure trove of information for the identity thief—bank statements, credit card bills, investment reports and balances, pre-approved credit card convenience checks, and new checks just to name a few.
Thieves will use the information that their employers rightfully have about you for their own gain. This can occur at organizations that have your personal information in databases or files such as banks, brokerage firms, and credit card companies.
Thieves know a credit report contains more personal information in one document than almost any other, and can fairly easily pose as someone who has a legal right to your credit report such as a prospective landlord or employer.
Thieves often know their victims according to the FTC. Roommates, hired help, and landlords all have access to your home and personal information. The FTC states identity theft within families is fairly common and that people are vulnerable to this crime often when ending relationships with roommates and spouses.
The proceeding blog post is an excerpt from The Six-Day Financial Makeover: Transform Your Financial Life in Less Than a Week!, available now on Amazon.
About the Independent Financial Advisor
Robert Pagliarini, PhD, CFP®, EA has helped clients across the United States manage, grow, and preserve their wealth for the past 25 years. His goal is to provide comprehensive financial, investment, and tax advice in a way that was honest and ethical. In addition, he is a CFP® Board Ambassador, one of only 50 in the country, and a real fiduciary. In his spare time, he writes personal finance books, finance articles for Forbes and develops email and video financial courses to help educate others. With decades of experience as a financial advisor, the media often calls on him for his expertise. Contact Robert today to learn more about his financial planning services.