How Identity Theft Happens

Account Takeover

Account takeover occurs when a thief is able to obtain enough information about yo in any manner or method and then 'takeover' your account, enabling them to make withdrawals, transfer funds to other accounts, and other transactions.

Data Breach

Data breach happens when a business or corporation has their sensitive, protected, or confidential data for customers or employees stolen via intrusion into an information or computer system, whether caused externally or internally.

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving happens when thieves search through your trash, or trash discarded by a business, looking for any discarded documents which contain sensitive information or personal identifying information, such as customer information, receipts, bank statements, credit card bills, utility bills, medical insurance papers or medical bills.


Flagging is the practice of placing your outgoing mail into your mailbox and placing the red flag up to alert the postal service that you have mail to be picked up. This also alerts thieves that you have important mail in the mailbox, usually bill payments or other important documents that contain information the thieves can use.


A thief who uses your computer, or a business's computer, to gain unauthorized access to confidential data or personal information is a hacker.

Mail Theft

Thieves target your mailbox, stealing any items which may contain your personal information, such as bank statements, retirement or investment statements, and even credit card applications.

Motor Vehicle Trespass & Theft

Thieves target your personal items, such as your purse or wallet, which contains your identification, checks and bank cards, and then use these items to make purchases or withdrawal money from your accounts.


Phishing happens when identity thieves trick you into providing your personal information or passwords. For example, thieves may send you a message purporting to be from your bank or another legitimate business you frequent and request that you update or provide your PIN in order to access your account or restore access by clicking on a link. Once you click on the link to provide the information, the fraudsters have your information. In some cases, the link may cause your computer to be infected with malware, which can allow access to any personal information you have saved on your computer. In other variations, the thieves may send you a text message or other social media to request your information.

Shoulder Surfing

When in a public location using your bank cards, entering PINs or completing applications or other forms with personal information be wary of individuals who may be observing your entries or account numbers, sometimes even surreptitiously taking pictures of your information by using their mobile phones.


Skimming can happen anytime you use your credit card, bank card, or debit card. The theft occurs when the device that reads the information stored on the magnetic strip on the back of your card records the information and the card's code, which is then used by thieves to make a duplicate card and make purchases with your account.

Social Engineering

This type of identity theft occurs when thieves use any means of deceit to trick you into providing sensitive information or sending funds. This can be done over the phone or via the computer, internet, or email.

True Name Identity Theft

True name identity theft happens when an identity thief has been able to obtain your personal information and open new accounts with your name, date of birth, and/or social security number.