How It Can Happen

Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information, including:

  • Stealing personal information from your home, mailbox or "outbox" at work, such as bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks or tax information.
  • Completing a "change of address" form at the post office to divert your mail to another location.
  • Rummaging through personal and business trash for information. This practice is known as "dumpster diving".
  • Getting information from businesses by stealing records, bribing employees, or hacking into computers.
  • Getting information from you via the Internet or telephone by posing as a government official, legitimate company representative, IRS employee or jury duty coordinator. Note: The IRS never requests information via email.
  • Stealing wallets or purses and all the credit cards, Social Security card and other identification you keep within it.
  • Taking documents from your home through burglary – or even a visit from someone you know. While important documents may be taken during a burglary, they also may be taken, unfortunately, by a relative, neighbor or "friend". A child's information is particularly vulnerable; since they don't have credit histories, it may be years before the theft is discovered.
  • Looking at "public" information like that found in "Who's Who" articles, or on employee or student IDs, driver's licenses, medical charts and more.
  • Looking over your shoulder – or taking a cell phone photo – at an ATM or phone to get your PIN, credit or calling card numbers.