California consistently has the highest number of identity theft cases in the United States each year. In 2010, there were over 38,000 cases of identity theft reported by Californians. Identity theft happens when a thief acquires personal identifying information of a victim and then uses that information for fraudulent purposes. Personal identifying information can include things like a victim’s full name, date of birth, social security number, account information, login information and account passwords.
Identity thieves often target older individuals, or those who are not very technology savvy. While many cases of digital identity theft are publicized on the news, a large extent of identity theft actually happens offline. Identity thieves have been known to rummage through garbage and break into homes to collect financial and personal information about their victims.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
There are many different techniques that identity thieves use to steal the personal identifying information of others. A few of the more common techniques used by identity thieves include:
- Online phishing scams. Online phishing scams have been around since the Internet came into existence. The victim receives an email allegedly from a person or business with which he or she is familiar. The email requests that the victim supply certain personal identifying information. Alternatively, an email might suggest that the victim click a link. By clicking the link, the victim inadvertently downloads a piece of computer code, called spyware, that will steal information from the victim’s computer, all without the victim’s knowledge.
- Theft of a wallet or purse. When a theft takes a purse or wallet, he or she usually also gets possession of the victim’s driver’s license and credit cards. Because the victim’s driver’s license has the victim’s full name, date of birth, address and driver’s license number, it is easy for thieves to make online purchases or open lines of credit posing as the victim.
- Dumpster diving. Some identity thieves will go through a victim’s trash in search of personal identifying information and financial documents. Discarded bills, credit card statements, even credit card offers give identity thieves the information they need to pose as the victim and commit fraud.
- Thief changes the victim’s address. Sometimes an identity thief will obtain just enough personal information about a victim to request a change of address from the post office. The victim’s mail will be forwarded to the address that the thief provides, and all of the victim’s bills, credit card statements, and other important financial mail will be opened and read by the thief.
- Skimming of victim’s credit card information. When an identity thief acquires a position of trust, such as a cashier or an order processing position at a company, the thief might skim credit card numbers and their expiration dates and then use that information to make fraudulent purchases.
- Identity theft by false pretenses. After an identity thief has acquired some personal identifying information, but still needs more to achieve his or her goals, the thief may contact the victim’s place of work, banks, school or utility providers, posing as someone else and acting on the victim’s behalf. The thief will try to glean additional personal information from these third parties about the victim.
Regardless of how an identity thief has gotten ahold of your personal identifying information, if you have been the victim of identity theft, you’ll need support as well as a person with the knowledge about the legal issues involved in restoring your identity to help you through this difficult situation. Contact the identity theft attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenechi R. Agu today.