Nineteen people become victims of identity theft every minute. Thieves can use your information to make purchases in your name, collect personal information, or wrack up debt. Identity theft is a frightening crime that only continues to be more prevalent. The more you know about identity theft, the better you can safeguard sensitive information. Here are five areas to be cautious of potential identity theft:

1. Petty Theft and Robbery

Although there are more tech savvy ways of stealing a person’s identity, petty theft and robbery is still a common way to obtain sensitive personal information. Commonly stolen items such as electronic devices, smartphones, and purses or wallets often contain personal information. Once found, fraudulent activity may follow.

2. Missing Mail

Another common way to commit identity theft is to steal someone’s mail. Your mail often has sensitive information, such as credit card and bank history, and can sit in your mailbox for at least a couple hours after it is delivered.

3. Wandering Eyes

Theft can also happen without loss of physical belongings. Opportunistic criminals can get a glimpse of your credit card number anytime you pull out your card to use it or enter the number in plain sight. Practice caution when using your card in public or entering your card number or pin with others around.

4. Your Trash, Their Treasure

Don’t let your trash be a treasure chest for thieves. Tossing out bank statements, billing information, old checks and credit cards, receipts or other sensitive documents can result in identity theft. You’d be surprised the lengths (or depths of a dumpster) people are willing to go. No trash can, even if your personal garbage, should be considered safe. It’s best to shred any item that contains personal information before you discard it to avoid this type of attack.

5. Phishing and Skimming

Thieves have evolved with the times, adopting more technological methods including phishing and skimming. Phishers aim to get you to volunteer personal information online by posing as a reputable institution. Skimming is a tactic used to steal credit card information. As you swipe your card, a device records your information stored in the card.

Phishing attempts come in many forms including emails, pop-ups, and even text messages, or phone calls. They often use fear to get the victim to act quickly and without much thought. For example, you may get an email from someone posing as your bank. The fraudulent message could inform you of a problem with your account and tell you to login in order to address the issue. After you click the link provided, you are taken to a phishing site rather than the bank’s real website. Once you login to the imposter site, the thief successfully steals your bank login information.

Skimming devices can be hidden in ATMs, departments stores, at gas stations, or anywhere you swipe your credit card. After information is collected, thieves can make fraudulent purchases.

Be vigilant and proactive in protecting yourself from identity theft. Knowing the common causes of identity theft can help you to stay one step ahead of fraudsters and keep your information safe.

Photo credit: Got Credit via Visual Hunt /  CC BY