Top 10 Ways to Lose Your Identity

Identity theft has always been a problem, but never more so than in the ‘connected world’ we live in today. Our names, birth dates, addresses and mobile phone numbers are routinely given out when we join a new social network or become a member of some online community. Plus they are displayed on statements or bills we get in the mail or online.

Identity frauds can use this basic information to start a bank account, get a credit card or drivers licence and once they have those forms of ID they can go for passports, your tax file number or even bank loans.

We also give out our credit card or bank account information regularly on the net, over the phone or in-store.

According to the US Department of Justice, one in ten Americans have been victims of credit card fraud and the total amount of fraudulent transactions worldwide is well in excess of $5 billion each year.

Just how many ways can you lose your personal information?

The Top 10 Ways To Lose Your Identity


10. Organic theft

Also called ‘shoulder surfing’, the thief will watch you using your personal information in a public place. Literally watch you type your credit card numbers into a keypad or listen to you giving the numbers over the phone or at a hotel or rental car check-in counter.

They will often record what you are doing so they can replay what you are doing and get the information later.

Cursor camouflage. Pretty neat for stopping PC shoulder surfing.


9. Physical theft

Look through rubbish, otherwise known as ‘dumpster diving’. If thieves can find a credit statement they get the credit card number, the name and address of the owner and sometimes the phone number of the owner. An old credit card will give them the card number and the secret number on the back of the card. Even better, they might strike gold and find an application for a pre-approved credit card that has been thrown out. Pre-approved cards are a high volume marketing tool used by most financial institutions these days.

Physical theft also includes stealing your personal information. Stealing your wallet for example, or taking mail from your mail box.

Lastly, hi tech thieves can get your credit card information electronically just by passing you in the street or in a store. Electronic pickpocketing rather than the old fashioned physical pickpocketing.


8. Phishing

Phishing is the act of sending out emails that purport to be from a financial institution, or any legitimate, established business, asking you for private information. These emails can be highly sophisticated, looking exactly like a real one and even coming from an email address that mimics the institutions address.

These emails can also be backed up with identical looking websites to add additional credence to the scheme.

The fraudsters know that most people will ignore the email but emailing can be done on such a large scale that they only need a small percentage of people to respond.

Get the low down on phishing.

7. Hacking

Sophisticated criminals can hack into email accounts and divert the traffic to a terminal they have access to, receiving genuine emails that contain your personal data.

They can also call an institution pretending to be a particular customer and change the address on the account, thereby receiving personal information through standard letters.

We don’t want you to be a computer hacker, but if you’re interested in what it takes to become one, look at this:


6. Skimming and Overlays

This is a step up from the standard phishers and thieves; this is theft with a touch of sophistication.

A skimmer is an electronic device that it placed wherever credit cards are inserted or swiped. ATM’s, card machines in retail outlets, even handheld card swipers used in restaurants.

As the card slides past the skimming machine reader all the information on the card is uploaded to the skimming machine. The person using the card would not know that anything abnormal had happened. The thief either returns later to collect the machine or information is transmitted by the machine to the thief at a remote location.

It is estimated that skimming is costing more than $8 billion each year in the US alone.

Don’t watch this is you don’t want to freak out every time you need to fill your car up.


5. Vishing

Vishing is phishing but using voice calls instead of emails. The scam generally goes like this – the visher will use an automatic dialler to call telephone numbers until they find a voice message service. They leave a message on the message service pretending to be from a trusted institution, saying that there’s a problem with an account, credit card or whatever and can you please call them back.

When you call back you are asked to verify your identity by answering certain questions. The problem is you are verifying your personal, private information directly with a crook.

That’s a pretty nifty scheme. Don’t give your personal information to anyone who rang you first.

The have been instances where vishing victims have had money taken from their bank accounts within ten minutes of a vishing call ending.

Here’s how they vish you.


4. Online Shopping & Website Phishing

This is another relatively sophisticated way of losing your identity. The thieves set up a website that purports to sell certain goods. It’s a full blown ecommerce website that is real in every way except that the information you submit doesn’t trigger a receipt or the despatch of any goods, it triggers fraudulent activity and identity theft.

The beauty of this scheme, from the thieves point of view, is that it may be weeks before you realise there is a problem and by then the website has probably been closed down and moved to a different URL.

This video shows you what a fake website might look like.


3. Keystroke Logging

There are various kinds of illegal software programs that are specifically written to track exactly what is being typed into a computer via the keyboard. Data thieves either receive this information directly from the software program, or enter the program at certain times to retrieve the information.

Once the information you are typing is captured it is a simple process to scan through the information to find your passwords and which accounts they relate to.

It’s not just passwords identity thieves get by using this method, but every bit of information you’re are saving or sending to others.

This type of software is used legally in some countries by corporations to track the activities of their employees, trouble shoot technical problems the users may be having and also by parents who want to track what their children are doing online.

The illegal variety is often almost impossible to detect however there are anti-keylogging programs available that can work well to protect you into the future.

Modern Marvels takes us into the shadowy world of keylogging.


2. Malware

Viruses, Worms, Spyware, there are any number of evil software programs that, if they manage to get into your computer and installed without your knowledge, can cause all sorts of problems. They are known as malicious software programs, or malware.

While some viruses are rather innocuous, others can damage your computer or even render it unusable. The worst pieces of malware are those that successfully steal your private information and transfer it to a remote computer where it is either used for illegal purposes, or sold to someone who wants to use it for illegal purposes.

How to avoid getting Malware. This is a must watch!


1. Data Breaches

Businesses around the world loose customer or employee information on a reasonably regular basis, but every so often a major institution will be hacked and thieves will take thousands or tens of thousands of customer records. Depending on the company that’s been hacked, the customer records could include personal financial details including credit card and bank account numbers, phone records, medical information and more.

In addition to being hacked by external data thieves, corporations also suffer internal breaches where employees with access to private data steal it and sell it to outside sources.

This was the case in the UK just a few days ago. Barclays Bank, one of the biggest banks in the UK, has just had the personal information of 27,000 customers stolen by an employee. Each file is up to 20 pages in length and includes information on the customers various bank accounts, insurance accounts, passport and health information.

What happens if a company looses your personal information? Here are some tips.



The biggest breach in history that involved credit cards occurred in late 2013 when criminals got up to 70 million credit and debit card numbers by physical means at Target stores across the US

70 million! It would have been worth a fortune to them. Particularly as it happened over an eighteen day period so there were a number of weeks during which nothing was being done to protect the victims accounts.


Top 10 Ways to Lose Your Identity

1. Data Breaches
2. Malware
3. Keystroke Logging
4. Online Shopping
5. Vishing
6. Skimming and Overlays
7. Hacking
8. Phishing
9. Physical theft
10. Organic theft


Hi, I'm Aarden. I walk along the beach in the morning and swim in the afternoon. The rest of the time I just love making up the best lists I can and moderating others. It's a fantastic way of bringing together interesting, important or fun information that you wouldn't otherwise get. Enjoy List Land!

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