How Does Identity Theft Happen?

Identity theft occurs when personal information is not protected or provided to an unauthorized person by the victim or obtained by illegal means. A victim can unknowingly provide financial and banking information, a social security number and personal information to a thief if contacted via phone or email by an individual posing as a representative of a banking institution or credit card company. Identity thieves may use illegal means to access personal information such as, hacking into corporate or government databases or stealing mail.

Identity theft can be divided into six major categories:

  • Business/commercial identity theft (using another's business name to obtain credit)
  • Criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime)
  • Financial identity theft (using another's identity to obtain credit, goods and services)
  • Identity cloning (using another's information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
  • Medical identity theft (using another's identity to obtain medical care or drugs)
  • Child identity theft

Here are some common techniques used by identity thieves:

  • Retrieving personal data from computers, cell phones and other electronic storage that have been disposed without personal and financial information being properly removed;
  • Observing users typing credit/calling card numbers into ATMs or point of sale terminals, this is known as shoulder surfing;
  • Advertising bogus job offers in order to accumulate resumes and applications that contain the applicant’s personal information such as their names, home address, social security numbers; and
  • Browsing social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter for personal details published by users.