Capital One - Maintaining Credit

Identity Theft.

So, what exactly is identity theft, anyway? Well, the short answer is it's when someone uses personal information like your Social Insurance Number or credit card number to commit fraud in your name. Basically someone uses your good credit rating to get credit. Then they use that credit and never pay it back. But since it's in your name, it's your credit rating that will suffer because it will look like you failed to make those payments. The tricky part to identity theft is that it can happen without you ever knowing it or seeing who's doing it. Here are a few methods fraudsters like to use:

  • Stealing credit cards or documents. Of course, wallets and purses are easy targets. But thieves may also steal newly issued credit cards out of your mailbox. Some even go "dumpster diving" to steal your bank or credit information out of your trash.
  • "Shoulder Surfing." It's as simple as it sounds. To "surf", the identity thief looks over your shoulder as you enter your PIN at an AMB machine. Then, by using a fake AMB device that reads your card's data, or by distracting you while your card is stolen or switched, a thief can use your PIN to take money from your account.
  • "Skimming." Using an electronic device known as a "skimmer", identity thieves can swipe the personal information data from the magnetic stripe of your card. The information can then be transferred onto fraudulently made credit cards. These skimmers can appear as normal-looking card terminals at stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc.
  • Online "spoofing." Many criminals use a technique known as "spoofing" to get personal information from people on the Web. This involves creating emails and Web sites that imitate real businesses like banks or online auction sites. These emails often direct people to Web sites to enter their personal info or credit card number, which is then used for various kinds of fraud.
  • Stealing from company or government databases. Law enforcement agencies in North America have noticed an increase in attempts to steal personal information from databases of private companies and government agencies. This can be as basic as thieves stealing computer hard drives or as complex as hacking online databases.

Obviously, the harder you can make it for someone to steal your identity, the greater your chance of protecting it.