How Identity Theft Occurs in the “Real World”

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How does identity theft occur?

How Identity Theft Occurs in the “Real World”

In the “old” days, a thief would knock you down, grab your purse or wallet, and run for the hills. And it was not uncommon to later find the discarded purse or wallet with the victim's driver's license and personal documents intact because all thieves wanted was your cold hard cash.

But just as quickly as technology devised a way for you to limit how much cash you carry, thieves figured out a way to take it from you.

Thieves are still knocking people down and taking their wallets and purses. But now they are after far more than a few hundred dollars tucked away in your billfold. They want your credit cards, health insurance card, ATM card, driver's license, auto insurance card, and – the “grand prize” – your Social Security number.

Yet even if you are careful about what you carry with you, thieves come up with creative ways to pilfer your personal information. They'll steal your incoming and outgoing mail searching for documents that contain bank account information, new credit cards, and tax documents that display your Social Security number. They'll rummage through your trash looking for discarded documents containing sensitive information. They'll even break into your car and grab everything you keep in the glove compartment, hoping to find credit card receipts, old bills, and any number of personal documents.

Identity theft information is becoming easier to access and the more you learn about identity theft, the better prepared you can be to deter it from happening to you. A good place to start is the Federal Trade Commission and the Identity Theft Center.



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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.