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13+ Things an Identity Thief Won’t Tell You

Criminals are after your personal information and money. Protect yourself from fraud with these secrets from former identity thieves.

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1. Watch Your Back

In line at the grocery store, I’ll hold my smartphone like I’m looking at the screen and snap a picture of your card as you’re using it. Next thing you know, I’m ordering things online-on your dime.

(Photo: Comstock/Thinkstock)

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2. Don’t Wait

Check your bank and credit card balances online at least once a week. I can do a lot of damage in the 30 days between paper statements.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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3. Late Bills Aren’t Always a Good Thing

If a bill doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, avoid breathing a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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4. That’s Me…

…driving through your neighborhood at 3 a.m. on trash day. I fill my trunk with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort later.

You throw away the darnedest things-preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications with all your personal information. It’s why you should always shred these before you throw them out.

(Photo:  iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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5. Walk Away

If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, leave and inform the bank staff and local police. That’s the skimmer I attached to capture your card information and PIN.

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6. It’s Easy

I use your credit cards all the time, and I never get asked for ID.

A helpful hint: I’d never use a credit card with a picture on it.

(Photo: Stockbyte/Thinkstock)

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7. It’s Easy to Impersonate You

I can call the electric company, pose as you, and say, “Hey, I thought I paid this bill. I can’t remember-did I use my Visa or MasterCard? Can you read me back that number?” I have to be in character, but it’s unbelievable what they’ll tell me.

(Photo: Hemera/Thinkstock)

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8. Thank You!

I love that new credit card that showed up in your mailbox. If I can’t talk someone at your bank into activating it (and I usually can), I write down the number and put it back. After you’ve activated the card, I start using it.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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9. Your Unlocked Mailbox is a Gold Mine

I can steal your account numbers, use the convenience checks that come with your credit card statement, and send in pre-approved credit offers to get a card in your name. Stealing mail is easy. Sometimes, I act like I’m delivering flyers. Other times, I just stand there and riffle through it. If I don’t look suspicious, your neighbors just think I’m a friend picking up your mail.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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10. The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same


Even with all the new technology, most of us still steal your information the old-fashioned way: by swiping your wallet or purse, going through your mail, or dumpster diving.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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11. I Dig through Dumpsters

If anyone asks (and no one does), I just say my girlfriend lost her ring, or that I may have thrown my keys away by mistake.

(Photo: Hemera/Thinkstock)

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12. The Easiest Online Targets Often Use…

When I send out e-mails “phishing” for personal information by posing as a bank or online merchant, I often target Hotmail users. They just seem less computer literate-and more likely (I hope) to fall for my schemes. It’s why you should never volunteer banking or personal information online.

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13. It’s Safer (for me) in Public


I never use my home computer to buy something with a credit card that isn’t mine. That’s why you can often find me at the public library.

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14. It Pays to Pay Attention

If you use the same ATM every time, you’re a lot more likely to notice if something changes on the machine, like the skimmer I installed.

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15. Sometimes I Pose as a Salesman


I go into a small office, and after I make my pitch, I ask the secretary to make me a copy. Since most women leave their purses on the floor by their chairs, as soon as they leave the room, I grab their wallet. I also check the top and bottom right-hand drawers of their desks, where I often find company checks.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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16. How Much Does your Information Cost?

I can buy stolen account information-your name, address, credit card number, and more-for $10 to $50 per account from hackers who advertise on more than a dozen black market web sites.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock )

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17. It’s Dumb of You, but…

…thanks for writing your PIN number on that little slip of paper in your wallet. I feel like I just won the lottery.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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18. Convenience Has a Cost

Sure, it may be nice not to have to put in your password when you use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. But know this: We have software that can scoop up all the data your computer transmits, including your passwords and other sensitive information.

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19. That Red Flag Alerts the Mailman


But it also tells me that you have outgoing mail. And that can mean credit card numbers and checks I can reproduce.

Sources: Former identity thieves in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, and New York.

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