The Four Most Common Types of Identity Theft, and Real World Examples of Each

The first step to avoiding identity theft is to understand how it works. By understanding the methods and strategies of identity thieves, you can be one step ahead in avoid becoming a victim yourself. Identity theft is a massive and growing problem for consumers in the US.

There are four common types of identify theft

  • Financial identity theft - using your identity to buy stuff
  • Criminal identity theft - pretending to be you when the thief is apprehended for a crime)
  • Identity cloning - taking on your identity in everyday life
  • Business/commercial identity theft - using your name or you business name to obtain credit

The most common identity theft strategies

  1. Going through your trash. They look through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it. You should shred all your important documents.
  2. Phishing. ID thieves will send you offers via email or on the Web, and get your to fill out forms to reveal your personal information. They will often pose as banks and financial institutions.
  3. Skimming. Thieves obtain your numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  4. Changing Your Address. They might pose as you and send your documents to another location by completing a change of address form.
  5. Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
  6. Physical theft. Like common thieves, ID thieves steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.

Real life consumer experiences

It can be helpful to read the experiences of other victims of identity theft. has a listing of consumer experiences with ID theft and fraud, these are a great way to get a feel for some common cases of identity theft and plan your steps for avoiding it.

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