3 Ways Your Identity Could Be Stolen (Without Having Your Computer Hacked)
March 14, 2018
Written byReuben Westmaas
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This content was created in partnership with IDShield, an identity theft protection company that unleashes a team of licensed private investigators to restore your identity if it's ever compromised.
Let's say you know all there is to know about protecting your identity online. You never use the same password twice, you use two-factor authentication, and you even surf the web via a VPN whenever you're in public. But one day, you wake up to find out that somebody out there has opened a dozen credit cards in your name. How is that possible? You just got hacked in the real world.
Scam In the Place Where You Live
Identity theft isn't exactly new — just ask François Vidocq. But now that it's been digitized like so much of modern life, it's easy to forget that you can face just as much risk in the real world as you do online. We've dug up three disturbingly common scams that don't require the con-artist to get online.
Skimming. Not to be alarmist, but every time you swipe your card through a reader, you put yourself at risk of losing everything and everyone you hold dear. Okay, maybe it's not as bad as that, but still, you should always make sure there isn't an unseen third party taking your financial info right from your card. Skimmers steal your data by surreptitiously installing their own card reader on top of those used by banks and businesses. So if the card reader at your ATM, gas station, or vending machine looks a little off, let the owner of the device know — and don't use it until you can be sure no one's trying to take your card number and PIN.
Mail Theft. Actually, that's a bit of a misnomer. It isn't just somebody stealing your mail that you have to worry about, it's also somebody going through your trash for identifying information that you've discarded. The scammers might be intercepting credit card offers before you even see them, or they could be finding sensitive info on your bank statements, utility bills, and other official documents after you've disposed of them. If you suspect the former is happening, contact your post office right away. As for the latter, the only solution is to shred or otherwise destroy potentially vulnerable documents before you toss them.
Pretexting. This is one of the most insidious forms of analog identity theft. Somebody who pulls it off successfully was likely able to because they already got some intel, either through mail theft or dumpster diving — or, worst of all, they heard it from you firsthand. Basically, it consists of the scammer calling your financial institutions or utility companies and plying them for the information they need by pretending to be you. If they've been able to figure out, say, your mother's maiden name, they may be able to parlay that info into something seriously dangerous, like your social security number.
So You've Been Hacked in the Real World
Unfortunately, knowing what threats are out there won't do you much good if you've already had your private data stolen. And that's when it helps to have some experts on your side. Take IDShield. This identity theft protection company doesn't just provide their clients with ongoing security before the worst happens; they also employ a team of private investigators that can help in case it already did happen. They'll pinpoint the weak spots in your data security and use cutting-edge techniques to track down the culprits before they can do too much damage. They can also help you keep tabs on your credit score at the push of a button so you'll always know when something fishy is going on.
To try IDShield identity protection for yourself, click here.