Identity Thieves: How They Operate and What You Can Do About Them

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Because identity theft can be committed without physical theft, it can take months and thousands of missing dollars before you realize you have been victimized. One of the best strategies for identity theft protection is to understand how these criminals operate.  

Identity thieves steal your personal information so they can take control of your existing credit accounts, open new credit and bank accounts, take out loans, rent an apartment, or commit crimes under your identity.

To avoid becoming a target, you need to understand how identity thieves operate, how they steal your personal information, and what they do with that information once it is in their possession.

How do identity thieves get access to your information?

  • They can steal bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and tax information from your mail—or even your trash.
  • They can rob your wallet or purse to obtain identification, credit cards, and bank cards.
  • They can intercept personal information you disclose on unsecured websites.
  • They can submit a change-of-address form and redirect your mail.
  • They can acquire your credit report by pretending to be someone who can lawfully access the information.
  • They can purchase your personal information from a source that has access to it, like a store employee who can see your credit card or your credit application.
  • They can gain access to your personal records in the workplace.


Once identity thieves have obtained your information, what can they do with it?

  • They can open a bank account under your name to write bad checks.
  • They can open new credit card accounts with your name, Social Security number, and date of birth so that unpaid balances end up on your credit report.
  • They can forge checks or debit cards to take money from your bank account.
  • They can change the mailing address associated with your credit cards so you don't receive the bills and remain unaware of the fraudulent activity.
  • They can file for bankruptcy with your name so they don't have to pay back debts.
  • They can take out loans under your name.


What can you do for identity theft protection?

In addition to safeguarding your personal information, make sure to regularly check your credit report to see if unknown credit accounts or services have been opened under your name.

You might want to consider signing up for an identity protection plan or credit monitoring service. You will receive identity theft protection and insurance as well as alerts for any new and suspicious activity, and you will also have the ability to monitor your credit report.

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What is identity theft? How do criminals use your personal information against you? Find out here.