Identity Theft Techniques

Skimmer devices

Thieves can copy your credit card information using a hand held device called a skimmer. This illegal act is often committed by seemingly innocent people such as waitresses, store clerks, and hotel employees. The skimmer is small enough to fit into a pocket and it only takes a few seconds for someone to swipe your card and record the necessary information. The thief then sells your information to an organized crime ring. They make and sell duplicate credit cards. Skimmer devices can also be placed on ATM machines.

Dumpster diving

Printed documents that state private information should be shredded before being thrown away. Thieves go through the garbage to find account numbers, Social Security Numbers, and other sensitive information from personal, financial, and medical documents. They use this information to assume or sell your financial identity.

Mail theft

Thieves will dig through your mail box in plain daylight, looking for credit card offers, bank or credit card statements, and personal checks. Identity thieves have been known to reroute mail in an attempt to get their hands on your sensitive information.


According to the Federal Trade Commission, 1 in 8 Americans in the last 5 years have been affected by Internet identity theft. These thieves know how to intercept information sent over unsecured internet connections. Some plant spyware into seemingly innocent downloads.


Thieves send emails and pop-ups that appear to be from banks and credit card companies. They will ask you to click a link and provide information related to your account. They may threaten you with severe consequences if you fail to provide the information. The link will direct you to a site that looks just like the official bank or credit card site, but is actually a fictitious site created to convince you to reveal your personal information.

Pretext Calling

It is human nature to want to be helpful. Thieves exploit this tendency by calling and pretending to be a legitimate organization that you do business with. They ask for seemingly inconsequential information, like your date of birth. Then they use that information to learn more about you from other sources. It doesn't take long for them to gather all of the information they need to steal and/or sell your identity.

Shoulder Surfing

This is the old fashioned way of stealing your identity. Thieves simply look over your shoulder as you complete financial transactions to get your credit card number, account number, and perhaps even your social security number.

Card Verification Value Code Requests

The Card Verification Value Code (CVV) is located on the back of your credit or debit card. It is a three or four digit number that was created to reduce fraud. Merchants and banks ask you to provide the CVV to prove that you have possession of the card before approving a transaction. Unfortunately, identity thieves have found a way to use it too. You may receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, saying that they are calling because there is a charge that they believe to be fraudulent. He or she asks you to verify, for security purposes, CVV code on your card.

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