Types of Identity Theft

When it comes to identity theft, the first step in protecting yourself is learning what thieves are doing to steal your personal information.

Our arsenal of knowledge explores the evolution of techniques from old-school to next-generation. Get the facts below:


  • Dumpster Diving

    Dumpster Diving:
    This method of identity theft is one of the most traditional—and most effective. Thieves search your trash for documents that contain your personal information and gain access to important numbers that help them commit identity theft.

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  • Stolen Wallet

    Stolen Wallet:
    When a thief steals your wallet, they gain instant access to the information they need to take the next step and steal your identity.

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  • Change of Address

    Change of Address:
    This is a classic identity theft technique—thieves change the address where you receive mail and divert your personal information into the wrong hands.

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  • Mail Theft

    Mail Theft:
    “Old school” thieves scout for unlocked mailboxes and steal your mail—and your identity—right from your front door.

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  • Shoulder Surfing

    Shoulder Surfing:
    The prevalence of cameras and recorders in today’s mobile phones make this form of identity theft a real threat. Thieves position themselves within sight or earshot of your latest credit application, and record your information to commit future fraud.

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  • Skimmers

    ATM Skimmers/Handheld Skimmers:
    Today’s thieves are innovating the way they steal your personal information, by swiping it—literally—when you are in the midst of a legitimate transaction such as paying for dinner bill at a restaurant, pumping gas, or using an ATM.

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  • Overlays

    Overlays:
    Hidden devices can be installed almost imperceptibly on any ATM, enabling thieves to swipe your account information when you insert your card, and then transmit your account information to a nearby computer for future fraudulent use.

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  • Data Breaches

    Data Breaches:
    According to Javelin Research, by the time financial institutions detect that a data breach has occurred, a fraud attempt has already been made in seven out of ten cases*—without you even knowing that your personal information has been compromised.

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  • Youth at Risk

    Youth at Risk:
    Complaints by victims’ age points to an interesting statistic: incidents of fraud are low in consumers age 19 and younger, however complaints of identity theft are disproportionately higher*—ripe for future fraud activity.

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  • P2P File Sharing

    P2P File Sharing:
    Music sharing sites and other peer-to-peer networks have helped high-tech thieves get all kinds of personal information via accidental disclosure—tax returns, password files, birth dates, and account numbers. Anything stored on the same hard driveas the shared library can inadvertently go public when you connect.

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  • Phishing

    Phishing:
    These days, that email from your bank in your inbox could be real—or a phish attempt. Today’s thieves are busy impersonating legitimate businesses via email and websites in order to acquire your personal information like PINs, credit card or bank account numbers, or Social Security info.

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  • SMSishing

    SMSishing:
    Thieves are employing a sneaky new trend to get your personal info—sending text messages to your mobile device that impersonate a reputable contact and then direct you toa dangerous website with the goal of stealing your identity.

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  • Vishing

    Vishing:
    Email, texting, and websites are not the only way thieves are phishing for personal information. Vishing—voicecalls made to your landline or mobile phone—are an effective way for thieves to get your personal information.

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  • Online Shopping

    Online Shopping:
    Thieves are experts at duplicating legitimate online storefronts. Before you know it, you’ve completedyour transaction and inadvertently handed over the personal information they need to commit fraud.

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Next Generation Identify Theft:

  • Malware

    Malware, Malicious Software, Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Spyware, and Rootkits:
    Cyber thieves can install malicious software to exploit weaknesses in features of many popular software titles. Once installed, malware can run executable programs your computer without your consent, including transmitting personal information via the Internet to remote computers, where it is stored and sold at a later date to counterfeiters.

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  • Keystroke Logging

    Keystroke Logging:
    Keystroke logging is one of the most advanced forms of malware criminals can use to register your passwords, login IDs, and account information—without you even knowing.

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* Javelin Strategy & Research Newsletter. February 2010.

** Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2009.” February 2010.

Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.

Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.