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How do crooks get ahold of financial information?

Identity TheftAs consumers get wise and security systems go high tech, identity thieves have had to step up their game—and have they ever! The lengths these crooks will go to get your sensitive financial information is almost unbelievable. What they are able to do with your data once they get it can have long-lasting repercussions for your credit score and your ability to get credit cards and loans in the future, so it’s well worth your time to learn how they work.

From Dumpster Diving to Skimming—If it’s There, They’ll Find it

Identity theft tactics run the gamut from digging through trash cans to hacking into corporate data systems. When you know what their methods are, you have a better chance of stopping them from getting your information. Some common tactics include:

  • Stealing your mail. Think of the sensitive data you get through the mail—bank account numbers, tax forms with your Social Security number on them, confidential medical reports, and more. Thieves may take mail directly out of your mailbox or they may fill out a change of address form to redirect your mail to them. Sign up to get as much of this communication sent electronically as possible and be aware of when you should receive a statement so that you’ll know when you don’t get it.
  • Going through the trash. Thieves can strike gold in garbage cans, Dumpsters, and recycling bins. Those same confidential forms you got in the mail can end up in the garbage and can easily be picked out by thieves. Always shred sensitive forms and statements.
  • Stealing your wallet. Totally old school—but it still works. From your wallet, thieves can get your address, bank account numbers, credit cards, and even your SSN, if you carry your card with you (which you should NOT do!). Hold on to purses and carry wallets in a front pocket to protect yourself.
  • Getting a copy of your credit report. It’s not too difficult for a thief to pose as a landlord or employer and request a copy of your credit report. Once they have that, they have everything they need to steal your identity. Check up on who has requested your credit report and follow up on anything suspicious.
  • Phishing. If you get an email that asks you to reply with account numbers or directs you to a website to enter information, you should immediately be suspicious. Thieves will pose as eBay, PayPal, or a government agency to get this information from you. Don’t fall for it! Legitimate companies will never ask you to send them information they should already have.
  • Corporate data breaches. When a store or institution that has your personal financial data is hacked, you are at risk for identity theft. This seems to be happening more and more and there’s not much you can do other than follow the news and freeze your credit when it happens to you.

While you should do everything you can to protect your personal financial information, you are not to blame if a thief gets your information and opens accounts in your name. When that happens, don’t waste any time taking action. Contact me online for FREE help undoing the harm that has been done. If there is legal action to be taken—like against the credit reporting agency that gave your credit report to a thief—I’ll help you take it! You can also call 415.802.0137 to speak with me directly.

 

Michael F. Cardoza, Esq.
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U.S. Marine & Consumer Financial Protection Attorney dedicated to fighting debt and credit bureau harassment.