How can thieves steal my information?

Identity thieves have become increasingly savvy at gaining access to people's personal information. Here are some sources thieves employ:

Common sources:

  • Hacking into a bank, credit union or credit card company's database*
  • Phishing - when a scammer sends an e-mail that appears to come from your bank or another legitimate company, asking you for personal information such as your credit card or Social Security number
  • Bank statement - even from your kids' school bank program
  • Credit card statements
  • Restaurants and bars where you swipe your credit and debit cards
  • Department stores
  • ATM machines
  • Dumpster diving - the act of going into people's garbage for junk mail, bank statements or other material that may contain personal information
Other sources that don't easily come to mind:
  • Data breach from an elementary, middle or high school or university via stolen laptops
  • Doctor's offices or medical insurance companies where your Social Security number may be stored or used as a policy number
  • Your kids' immunization records
  • Hospital where you gave birth since the application for your new baby's Social Security number is filled out at the hospital.
  • County Recorder's office where your house deed is registered and recorded
  • County Municipal Hall where you file and get the official marriage certificate, birth certificate, and death certificate. These certificates have your entire family's address, SSN, DOB, DOD, telephone number and other personal details.
  • Car dealerships where you bought your present and past cars. They usually attach your latest credit report and score to your purchase document.
  • Social Security Administration
  • Veterans Administration, its affiliates and hospitals. They not only have information on military personnel but also on the families and beneficiaries of the veterans.
  • Previous Employers - They have your SSN, your past and present names (aka maiden name), past and future addresses, your old W2s, 401K and beneficiary forms, etc.
  • Frequent flyer clubs
  • Grocery store clubs
  • Library cards
  • Pay day check cashing outlets
  • Sports associations
  • Passport centers
  • Human Resource departments of companies where you've applied for employment.

*Javelin Study, 2006

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