Identity theft loss totals are approaching billions of dollars and continue to increase each year. Identity theft happens when a criminal steals personal information belonging to someone else – perhaps to you! Such personal information may include your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, or the ATM PIN code for your bank account. Although you may think you are careful with this information, identity thieves are clever and can obtain this information in any number of ways.
A popular method is "shoulder surfing" where the thief just stands near the ATM and watches as you key in your PIN. Or the thief may listen in on your phone conversation as you make hotel reservations with a credit card.
Identity thieves utilize "phishing" as a way to get your personal information. They send out fake e-mails, purportedly from banks or credit card companies, indicating that there is a problem with your account. In order to "verify" your account, they ask for your Social Security Number and other information. Many people respond in good faith to these inquiries. As a result, their identities are often stolen.
While most people would not be caught dead going through a trash bin, "dumpster diving" has become a new sport for ID thieves. They go through dumpsters looking for things such as bank statements, checks, or credit card statements – items that contain your address and account number.