How Does Identity Theft Happen?

An ID thief can get your information hundreds of ways. The goal of most identity theft scams is to access your credit card or bank account information. If you keep that in mind at all times, it can help you remain more vigilant about protecting your information and your money. Below are just some of the deceptions that criminals use to steal your identity.

INTERNET: Online “phishing” has become very popular. ID thefts occur when you receive emails from people posing as legitimate companies asking for your contact or credit card information. Some will directly ask you to send them a check.

RECORDS: ID thieves can hack your records through a computer, pay off company employees to gain access to your records, or even steal the records directly from a company. “Dumpster diving,” which is sifting through trash, is another way they can gain access to your records or mail.

MAIL: ID thieves can easily steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, checks, tax information and more. They will even steal the mail you leave for the postman if your mailbox isn’t secure. They may fill out a change of address form in your name and send it back – so they receive your mail.

ATMs: ID thieves can capture your ATM Card information using a technique called “skimming” They get your information by attaching a data storage device to an ATM machine and get your information when you swipe your card.

DIRECT THEFT: ID thieves may steal your wallet, purse, or financial information from your house. They will then use your credit cards, ATM cards, checks and any personal information they find for their own financial gain.

Listed below are some of the latest ID theft scams (

Work From Home

Companies offer to pay aggressive compensation for projects as menial as stuffing envelopes. These and similar companies begin by having ID theft victims send money to a P.O. Box or by having victims provide credit card information in order to receive their “work at home” starter kit. Not only do victims rarely receive anything in return, but even when they do, the rate of return is much lower than originally promised. Many of these ID theft scams are related to pyramid schemes.

Credit Card Fraud

New VISA/MasterCard Scam: A credit card “employee” calls you to confirm unusual spending activity. The “employee” asks for the code on the back of your credit card. Part of the scam involves explaining how consumers are being scammed! If you get such a call, be sure to call the credit card company back to see if they did in fact make the original call.


New Phishing Scam: The ID thief simply creates a domain name using the legitimate company name, but adds the term "accounts" or “secure” in its domain. The ID thieves distribute millions of emails asking consumers to verify account information and a social security number. Some of the verification scams come from E-Bay, Best Buys, Discover Card,, and Companies victimized include AOL, MSN, Earthlink, Discover Card, Bank of America, Providian and others.


Nigerian Nightmare Scam: ID thieves send emails posing as a representative from a foreign government asking you to help move money from one account to another. It’s reported that this scam nets these criminals $100 million annually. These offers account for about 12% of the scam offers people have said they've received, according to a National Consumers League poll. There are many versions of this scam, so it’s important to weed out spam – and not respond to any email if you don’t know (or cannot verify) the sender.

Other Forms of ID Theft

There are many additional forms of Identity theft, including criminal ID theft, where someone stopped by law enforcement might give the officer your name and contact information. There is also ID cloning, where a criminal uses your contact information to start a new life portraying you. This is popular for illegal immigrants or criminals hiding from the law.