Skilled fraudsters have many ways (both low- and high-tech) to obtain your personal and financial data and then use it for their own benefit. They may, for example:
Steal your wallet, purse, mail and even your trash, which may contain your identification, credit and bank cards, pre-approved credit offers and tax information.
Complete a “change of address form” to divert your mail to another location.
Obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legitimate need for—and a legal right to—the information.
Send you an email, which appears to be from a reputable company, asking you to respond, go to a website or call a fraudulent phone number—all to get you to provide personal information. The email may include accurate information about you to encourage you to respond.
Establish a fake website that looks like a legitimate site and asks you to provide personal information.
Redirect your Internet browser’s request for a legitimate website to a fraudulent location to collect information.
Hack your computer (illegally install programs or viruses) to capture your activity in order to steal personal information, including user IDs and passwords.
Steal your laptop or smartphone to use any unsecured data to discover passwords and access accounts.
Understand the Potential Risks
Once someone has your personal information, there are many ways he or she can use it without your knowledge, such as to:
Change your mailing address on your credit card account.
Open a new credit card using your name, date of birth and Social Security number.
Establish phone or wireless service in your name.
Create a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
Forge counterfeit checks or debit cards and drain your bank account.