One way to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft is to be aware of some of the most common identity theft scenarios. An unsuspecting victim can easily fall prey to these clever schemes.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 73% of all fraud contact occurs through email. There are several identity theft scenarios involving email, but this example is one of the most prevalent. While checking your email one day, you come across an urgent request from a friend. Apparently your friend is stranded in a foreign country (often Nigeria) and needs financial help. Usually they ask for help because their wallet has been stolen or their luggage with all their money has been lost. You, being true to your friend, wire the requested funds, usually around $1,000. Naturally, your friend is at home safe and sound and you have just fallen victim to identity fraud. Through some sophisticated software, the identity thief has infiltrated your friends email and kidnapped all of her contact addresses. The email you received was sent out by the thief to everyone on her contact list.
A criminal can make thousands of dollars a day committing this fraud. Check the email carefully; often the clue to its illegitimacy is poor grammar and spelling. Also, before sending funds to help your friend in need, try calling them on the phone or ask other friends if they know anything about the situation. This is definitely a great example of why you should think before you act while online.
One of the newest identity theft scenarios involves a phishing scam. Many people do not know what phishing is. If you are looking to define phishing, it is when you receive an email from what appears to be an official looking government department such as the FBI or a business such as your bank. The email then instructs you to confirm your identity by providing some personal information. This is the information that the thief is looking for. Combined with your email address and name, the thief can essentially take over your identity.
The newest phishing scam involves an email from your bank. The email explains there is a problem with your account and provides a number for you to call to correct the issue. When you call the number in the email, you are not actually speaking to the bank but with a very clever criminal who is going to ask for your bank account number and other personal information. If you ever receive this type of email, be sure to call the bank using a phone number that you already have and not the number provided in the email.
Web spoofing is also one of the newer identity theft scenarios. In this situation, you believe you are visiting a legitimate website. You type in the correct URL and the website that appears looks just like it should. When you are at the website, you are requested to provide information such as social security number, bank account number or credit card number. In actuality, through sophisticated software, you have been redirected to a fraudulent website and the thief now has your personal information.
Pay attention to the URL address as the website loads. Oftentimes, the address will start out as the one you expected but then will change to another address as the page is loading. Web spoofing is becoming more and more popular with technologically savvy criminals. Pay attention and never give out personal information before thinking if it is necessary and if the situation feels right.
Old Fashioned Identity Theft Scenarios
Almost 28% of all complaints of identity theft are the result of simple theft, according to the FTC. Purse snatching, pickpockets and smash and grabs are still the most common ways thieves gain access to your personal information. To prevent your purse or wallet from getting stolen, follow a few simple guidelines. Be aware of who is around you. If you see someone that looks suspicious, veer off course and go into a public establishment. Always keep a firm hold on your purse and keep it in front of you. Never hang your purse off the side of your chair when dining. Gentlemen should keep their wallets in a front pocket and if possible, keep your hand in that pocket when in crowds. If you leave a wallet or purse in your car, lock it in the trunk or put it somewhere out of sight.
By being aware of the most common identity theft scenarios, you will have a better idea of what to look out for. As always, common sense is the best defense. If something looks strange or causes alarm bells to go off in your head, be cautious.