When it comes to identity theft, every individual in the world is at risk. This criminal practice has been going on for countless years and the number of victims continues to grow.
Some reports claim that as many as 10 million people are subject to identity theft every single year. Many times, this information is used to simply promote spam messages and illegal advertisements. Unfortunately, it can also be used to irrevocably ruin a person’s credit and potentially their life. An active phone number can be sold to illicit advertisers and scam artists who want to make a phone call in order to try to get more information.
Of course getting a phone number is relatively simple. However, when combined with other pieces of information about you, your phone number can become quite valuable.
Here are a few of the ways in which identity thieves illegally gain the phone numbers of innocent individuals and add it to other (more potentially harmful) pieces of information, to assemble a picture of who you are.
One of the easiest and most popular forms of accessing private information has been deemed dumpster diving. While the world continues its shift towards digitized information, vast amounts of information are still sent through generic letters, bills, and notices. For many, it becomes troublesome to tear, shred, and destroy the massive amounts of mail received every single day. This leaves the opportunity wide open for criminals to look through the trash of individuals, searching for private information in dumpsters.
Another common (but riskier) attempt at stealing private information is called skimming. Credit and debit cards are increasingly being used for everyday purchases. To make a purchase, these cards must be put through devices or scanners to access account information. This is a perfect chance for illicit parties to use fake hardware to scan bank cards which can give them full access to your personal information. These phone and bank account numbers can then be sold for illegal uses.
This form of stealing information has become alarmingly popular in recent years as scam artists and criminals have evolved with their strategies, making them highly effective. Phishing can be carried out in multiple ways, but it is a blanket term for any person or group which hides or pretends to be someone else in order to steal information. These criminals are looking for private information such as passwords, user IDs, and phone numbers. The most wide scale use of phishing involves sending out fabricated emails in the guise of credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions. Victims will then follow links or input private information to access what they believe to be legitimate websites.
As the average person begins to make more purchases, take on loans, acquire credit cards, or even just move forward in life, their private information becomes readily accessible to identity thieves.
While identity theft continues to grow, being aware of ways in which your information can be stolen gives you a way to keep your eyes and ears open. Knowing that your information can be easily stolen and used, and taking steps (not out of fear, but out of preparedness) can go a long way to helping you resolve the problem if and when it happens to you.
Steven Farrell wrote this article as a guest poster for IdentityTheftSecrets. Steven is the administrator of ReversePhoneLookup.org, a site where you can perform a reverse phone lookup for as little as $1.