Identity theft is a serious issue with grave consequences. Every year, billions of dollars are lost in these crimes of fraud. In today’s modern world, identity theft can happen at anytime online and over the phone. But that doesn’t mean identity theft isn’t still happening on the streets in the physical, offline world. Learn about these common patterns of street identity theft to protect yourself from potential scammers.

Shoulder Surfing

This is probably the most basic of street identity theft tactics. Whether you’re accessing an ATM or looking over your information as you’re buying a train ticket, the person standing behind you in line or waiting suspiciously close to you could be looking over your shoulder and recording your information on their phone or simply in their memory.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. When you’re using the ATM or pulling out your private information, take a quick look around. If anyone is standing too close, confront them. Ask them politely but sternly to please give you some space and stand back a bit. An honest person should understand and a dishonest one should be deterred.


Stolen Wallet

Petty thieves are everywhere. You already know that they are after your wallet and purse. However, smart thieves know that there is more than just cash in your wallet. They aren’t the ones that are going to take the money and toss the rest. Your driver’s license or other pieces of identity matched with your credit cards can be even more valuable.

If you ever find your wallet missing, or even if you are missing just a few pieces of your wallet like ID or credit cards, take appropriate action right away. Cancel missing credit cards. Report the theft to the police. Notify the DMV if your license is missing. Request a license renewal or duplicate.

Take steps to prevent your wallet from being stolen in the first place. Keep your wallet on your body, not in a piece of luggage stacked behind you. If travelling in touristy areas or large cities where pickpockets abound, consider using a wallet that you can hang around your neck or strap around your waist.

Dumpster Diving

Your identity and information are not just in the things you want to keep close to you (like your wallet); they’re also in the things you throw away. Those letters you thought were junk mail might contain sensitive information that the company carelessly included. Or if you wrote username and password combinations, social security numbers, or any other identifying information on pieces of scrap paper and then threw them away, those are targets as well. Seasoned dumpster divers know just what types of mail or what types of information to look for. They pick out exactly what they need to steal your information. Just a few pieces of mail can be enough for identity thieves to pretend to be you in order to obtain more information and access your accounts.

When going through the mail, go through every letter that is addressed to you. Look through it to make sure that it doesn’t include any sensitive or identifying information. If it does, make sure to shred it right away. Always shred things like bank statements and bills. And when it comes to sharing or recording sensitive information like passwords, try not to write them down if you can help it. Recite it vocally to anyone you are sharing it with so that there are as few written records of the information as possible. If you need to write it down to remember it yourself, be sure to write it in a personal journal or some other important location so you won’t lose it or accidentally throw it away.


Mail Theft

Sometimes the thief will go ahead and bypass the whole waiting for you to throw something important away and then picking it out of the dumpster process and target your mailbox. If they notice that you don’t check your mail frequently, they also assume that you might not miss a few pieces of missing mail. They can get first dibs on important notices, letters, and information from your mailbox if they jump in there first.

Check your mailbox regularly so that thieves don’t get many opportunities to access your mail. Also, get to know your neighbors. Keep an eye out for each other as a community so that everyone would notice if there’s a stranger snooping through the mailboxes.


Share this with your friends and family so that we can create a stronger community awareness about identity theft.