In this day and age, people are concerned with how they might have their identity stolen online. From Internet scams to email hacking to stolen credit card information, online identity theft is a very prevalent problem in our society.
Unfortunately, while online identity theft has boomed, low tech, more traditional forms of identity theft have not subsided either. Offline identity theft is nearly as common as it ever was, but people discuss it less often because they’re so concerned with halting online identity theft. Offline identity thieves can surreptitiously steal your information in numerous ways, with damaging consequences. Here are a few ways that your identity can be stolen when you’re not online, and some tips for avoiding this in the future.
Personal information can easily be stolen from your mail. Thieves who steal your mail can often find valuable information about you, such as your checking account or credit card numbers. All they have to do is take your mail, open it, and find the information. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to avoid this. First, avoid sending checks in the mail whenever possible (and if not avoidable, get your mail insured). Next, when you drop your mail off at the mailbox, do so right before it is picked up, making the odds of it getting stolen much smaller. Finally, open all the mail that you receive. Even if it’s junk mail, it may contain valuable information about you that can be stolen if you discard it on the spot.
Many people choose to dispose of their documents by simply throwing them in the trash or recycling. But when you throw away bank statements, credit card statements, voided checks, etc., you are putting valuable information about yourself in the trash or recycling, where it can be looted by an identity thief. Make sure that any documents containing valuable information about your identity are shredded or burned.
Skimming at Gas Stations
Credit card skimming has also recently become popular, and is usually done at gas stations. Credit card skimming is a simple act wherein identity thieves place a device on the gas pump that reads and transcribes your credit card when you swipe it. Skimmers can collect hundreds of credit card numbers with one little device, and then they can use your credit card for purchases. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to avoid having your card skimmed. The best thing you can do is to keep an eye on your credit card statement and report suspicious activity immediately.
Identity theft can happen at restaurants too. When your server takes your credit card, they can quickly transcribe the name, number, and expiration date. They may return the card in only a minute, but that’s more than enough time to get all the information they need. The best way to avoid this is by paying with cash whenever possible.
Unfortunately, identity theft is still a serious issue, even away from the Internet. But the more you know about identity theft, the better you can avoid it.
Randall O’Brien is a freelance legal blogger based in Indianapolis, IN. Randall encourages people who’d like to learn more to view the Protect Your Bubble Identity Theft Protection services.