Everything You Need to Know About Identity Theft Scams

Worried about identity theft scams? Here's what you should be aware of

Worried about identity theft scams? You should be -- they're on the rise and they just keep getting worse. Several years ago, in 2007, studies found that there were 8.1 million victims in the United States alone. That's 8.1 million in one year -- and that number is climbing today.

So how can you protect yourself? The first step is becoming familiar with identity theft scams.

Types of identity theft

There are two main types of identity theft scams. The first is called account takeover and happens when a thief gets information about your existing accounts (bank, credit, etc.) and uses them in your name.

The other is called application fraud (sometimes also known as true name fraud). This is much more dangerous because the thief applies for credit in your name using your SSN. Because they use THEIR address, not yours (or more likely a made up one) for statements, you often won't learn of the fraud for some time.

Methods of identity theft

There are a number of common methods that thieves use to perpetrate these identity theft scams. Some of the more common ones include:

--Stealing mail from unlocked mailboxes

Think about how easy it would be to snag a pre-approved credit card application from your front porch as someone walked by, fill it in, and send it off in your name.

--Dumpster diving

Any time you throw out a document that has credit card, SSN, or other personal information without shredding it, a thief can dig through your trash and get their hands on it.

--Shoulder surfing

This is when someone watches you at an ATM machine and steals your PIN. If you suspect shoulder surfing, cancel the transaction IMMEDIATELY.

--Browsing employment records

If someone who works with you is working identity theft scams, they can easily get your personal information from employment files.

--Phishing

This occurs when someone sends an email message that tricks you into submitting your financial information.

--Fraud

If someone calls you and asks for your personal information, even if they say they're a potential employer or a bank representative, get very suspicious.

These common identity theft scams are on the rise, so be aware and limit the chances of becoming a victim.

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