For most of us, identity theft is one of those awful things that we hope will never happen to us. We hear stories about it all the time, but we think ‘it won’t ever happen to me’. And it probably won’t, until it does. The problem is that there is so much information out there that it can be difficult to figure out what it worth protecting and what can safely be thrown in the bin. So we wanted to show you just some of the information that identity thieves are looking for – and some of it might not be what you think.
Your Hobbies, Club Memberships Or Employer
Let’s start off with an unusual one. Most people aren’t quite as careful about protecting their gym membership as they are their more private data, but this can be a key piece of information for any identity thief just starting their hunt. By finding out what organisations you belong to, places you go to do your hobbies or the name of your employer, a thief can use this to impersonate you when speaking to the organisations to gain more information. Worse still, they could employ it in various phishing scams, impersonating the club, organisation and employer. The basic idea behind this is that people are much more likely to respond to a phone call or email scam when they appear to be from the group they belong to. This data is an easy target for them, as we rarely protect these details as well as we should.
At this stage, the thief isn’t looking for specifics, they just want to know where you hold your financial accounts. This is for a similar reason to the above – to leverage this information when pretexting (pretending to be you) or phishing. The thieves will often study how your financial institution communicate with its customers in order to make their scam appear more genuine. In general, be incredibly wary of ANY email that asks you to provide additional information, even if it looks real. Genuine banks will never ask you to type you card details, even in part. Always play it safe by visiting a branch or calling their helpline, as they will quickly be able to tell you if there is a genuine problem.
Your Passport Number
A simple passport number, when combined with an illegal database can provide thieves with a wealth of information on you. Your passport number can reveal your full name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality and more. All gold to a data thief looking to steal your identity. If your physical passport is stolen, the consequences mount up quickly, with the thieves able to open up accounts internationally and a lot of complex problems for you to deal with. The sad thing is, many people still just throw away old passports, meaning thieves just need to sift through some rubbish to get their hands on a goldmine of information.
While physical addresses are rarely used as a medium for phishing scams anymore, there is still the risk of receiving ‘bait mail’ through the post. There is not much you can do about this, except be savvy and shred any junk you do receive. What is far more sinister is that your physical address coupled with, say your full name and date of birth gives a thief the ability to initiate a change of address with your providers, effectively rerouting all of your post (and the information within) to a location of your choice. They could of course simply visit your home to steal post, rubbish or information directly from you.
How Do You Protect Your Data?
While all of that sounds very scary (believe me, we have nightmares about it!) it is relatively easy to prevent. You simply need to be cautious about what information you give out, and make sure you aren’t throwing personal information in the bin. Instead of just chucking junk mail in the bin, make sure every piece goes through a shredder, so no one can get their hands on your address. If you don’t have a shredder, get in touch with us and we can provide you with convenient shredding sacks. All you need to do is put all your sensitive information into it, and we will shred it for you in a secure location. For more information or to arrange your own shredding sacks, get in touch with us today.