Identity theft crimes inflict billions of dollars in losses each year. Although the number of reported cases has skyrocketed in the past couple of years due to the rapid growth of the internet and the adoption of digital platforms, identity thieves have been around for a very long time.
No internet? No problem
Long before the internet was a thing and consumers shopped and banked online, fraudsters would go to great lengths to defraud individuals. Digitalization has only permitted criminals to commit identity theft easier and at a much larger scale, with little chance of being caught by law enforcement.
Criminals can steal your personally identifiable information (PII) in many ways. They don’t need internet access to dupe you into handing over personal and financial data to take over accounts or drain your money from the bank.
Common old-school identity theft techniques used to obtain PII and conduct identity crimes include:
Going through someone else’s garbage to steal personal data may seem far-fetched. However, businesses and individuals alike often dispose of sensitive information and computer systems without wiping old devices and shredding documents, or weighing in the possibility of malicious and opportunistic individuals.
You’d be surprised at what people can find rummaging through trash. From unwiped hard drives filled with personal videos, blogs, conversations, email addresses, phone numbers, and important files to physical documents containing bank statements, credit reports and medical insurance information – all that can be exploited by criminals in some way or another.
A poorly disposed paper trail can have serious consequences for your financial and physical safety, so we recommend always shredding documents, mail and copies containing PII before throwing them in the dumpster. It’s also wise to wipe any hard drives or devices before setting them on the curb for trash pickup or donating them for charity, as you never know where they may end up.
Other low-tech methods of stealing personal and financial information to conduct identity crimes include the theft of a wallet or purse. Criminals can steal credit cards, drivers’ licenses or other forms of identification to impersonate you and conduct fraud. There are even reports of fraudsters stealing credit cards and replacing them with fake ones. Your purse and wallet make for a very enticing target for old-fashioned criminals who want your checkbooks, home information and Social Security card.
This is why it’s important to keep your personal effects with you at all times and make sure that all of your identifying information is accounted for when leaving a public setting such as a restaurant, club or public transportation. When not required, keep your Social Security Card and other unnecessary documentation in a safe place at home to ensure that, in case of an incident, the thief won’t have access to all your PII. Always report missing documents, theft or suspicious activity to police.
It doesn’t matter how identity thieves obtain victims’ personal information. Once compromised, they can use your PII to commit fraud by draining your bank accounts, ruining your credit score, and even getting medical treatment in your name.
Identity theft is life-altering for most victims. On top of financial damages, individuals can suffer great psychological damage that affects the well-being of their families.
If you need help thwarting identity thieves and limiting damages to your reputation and financial assets, check out Bitdefender Identity Theft Protection plans, which pack a comprehensive list of proactive features, including:
- 24/7 data breach monitoring and fraud alerts
- Continuous monitoring of your identity to ensure that only you and your family use your medical benefits
- Instant alerts whenever your personal information is at risk
- Credit monitoring and lost or stolen wallet assistance
- Restoration services including expert assistance and access to your dedicated resolution specialist
- Up to $2 million in identity theft insurance to help you cover legal fees and other costs for fixing your identity
Read more about Bitdefender all-in-one solutions here