3 Ways Consumers Fall Victim to Identity Theft

There’s really only one way to protect yourself from identity theft. Stop
spending money and trust no one. It’s pretty easy.

OK, it isn’t easy. Talk to enough victims of identity theft, and you
start to realize that it really can happen to anyone – and sometimes, no
matter how careful you are, it can happen to you. That’s why it helps to study how people’s
identities were stolen and learn from it. Here a few ways identity theft
happens along with strategies to prevent it.

Information is out there for anyone
to see.
Of course you don’t want to
leave credit card statements lying around in public places, and when you discard
your financial paperwork, it’s smart to run it through a shredder. But
sometimes when you’re out in the world, your information can’t help become a
little exposed. You type a PIN number onto a pad and realize someone might have
been looking over your shoulder. You hand your credit card to a waiter, who
disappears for a while with it. Or you’re in a crowded store, practically
rubbing elbows with an identity thief.

[Read: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Identity Theft.]

Sarah Dugo, co-founder of College Savings Dolls, a Schaumburg,
Illinois-based company that sells dolls designed to inspire kids
to go to college, got an unwanted education on identity theft a few years ago.
She was at a crowded Best Buy and bought a big-screen TV for the Super Bowl.

“The cashier took my credit card and delivery information,
but they left it all on the computer screen and walked away from the check-out
area. I was at one of the checkouts in the smaller section [of the store], not the main front
exit,” Dugo says.

It turns out that the thief
used Dugo’s credit card information to order the same big-screen TV – and had it sent to his address. “That’s
how they caught him,” Dugo says. Still, the crook did enough damage to her
credit report and credit score that it took two years for her to straighten it all
out.

She was in one of those
situations where the employee ringing her up was interrupted by a customer
before finishing her transaction. Dugo isn’t positive, but she thinks that’s
how someone was able to see her information and either jot everything down or
snap a photo of the computer screen.

Dugo isn’t sure what she
could have done differently, but she figures that if she is ever shopping on
another crowded weekend, she may make her purchase at the main entrance, where
department sales clerks aren’t likely to be pulled away from the register.

You put your wallet or handbag in a vulnerable position. “Several
years ago, I was shopping at a Safeway near my house. I was in the shampoo
aisle and a well-dressed man asked me to help him find a product his wife asked
him to get,” says Caren Kagan Evans, CEO of ECI Communications, a public
relations firm in Rockville, Maryland.

While Evans pointed to
the top shelf to show him where the product was, another man took Evans’s
wallet out of her handbag, which was in the top part of her cart.

“I didn’t realize my
wallet had been stolen until I went to check out,” Evans says. “I ran
home, contacted the credit agencies, contacted my bank and of course contacted
my credit card companies.”

Unfortunately, her Social
Security number was printed on her health insurance card, so the two men now
had that information as well.

[Read: What to Do If Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen.]

“This was a large
group of people that were doing this kind of thing up and down the East Coast,”
she says. “In a matter of just an hour, the team had used my cards at gas
stations, Target and I can’t remember where else. They also were able to get
checks printed since they had my Social, and thousands of dollars disappeared
from my checking account.”

Evans says she was lucky
because she got her money back and was able to fix everything relatively
quickly. “I have heard stories of people who had their identities stolen
where the perpetrator took out mortgages on properties, and stories of people
who literally spent years getting everything straightened out,” she says.

Article source: http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/07/21/3-ways-consumers-fall-victim-to-identity-theft

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