How Identity Theft Works
Physical theft, especially of your purse or wallet, or of your mail, is a common means of identity theft. A
break-in to your home or a "stair dancer" intruding into your office workplace, are other opportunities. Going
through your trash can for identity information is another. But there are many more subtle ways to obtain this
You need to be very careful whenever your identity details are exchanged. These are always opportunities for the
unscrupulous. Remember that thieves are sometimes people you think of as friends. Conmen are usually very likeable
people - it's a well-honed vocational skill. And sometimes they will work through an unwitting friend or relative
of yours that you trust absolutely.
A strict "need to know" policy for important identity information reduces your risk exposure.
Using your credit card has become much safer, and improvements will no doubt continue. But you should never let
your credit card out of your sight when shopping or at restaurants.
Secure transaction sites run by reputable companies are usually quite safe but mail, email and telephones offer
interception opportunities for thieves. You should not assume they are always private, especially mobile telephone
conversations, which can be intercepted.
Identity thieves exploit email and telephones especially in clever ways to persuade or trick you to give away
vital data in unguarded moments. There is now even a name for the email identity theft scams: "phishing."
Targets are often your passwords and bank account details so the thieves can transfer funds electronically out
of your account, usually through a chain of accounts to some obscure foreign location from which the cash is
Banks today go to great lengths to warn they never ask for your account access details by email or telephone,
but people still get caught out.
Even alert people can fall victim to keystroke logging software loaded into PCs to collect identity data that
you enter into your computer. Your bank account user name and password are popular targets for these criminals.
This information is sent to them through the internet from your computer without your knowledge. Again, a quick
transfer of your money through a chain of international accounts can follow and it is gone forever.
Computer spyware and viruses are a major source of identity theft. Your defence is to maintain high levels of
computer security, and to regularly scan your computer to look for such programs.
It is normally unwise to check your bank account on other people's computers. You never can tell what spyware
they may hold. The risk is greater at cyber cafes. Their shared computers are well known to be more exposed to
identity thieves, who can load key stroke logging software into these computers if they are not well protected.