Identity theft is an unfortunately common crime with very serious consequences. It can be difficult to undo the damage, and the perpetrator may be tricky to track down. The best thing to do is simply avoid common identity theft scams little precautions that you take in your day-to-day life will save you a whole lot of grief later.

The largest number of identity theft attacks happen online. There are a huge variety of ways that these thieves try to steal your information. Most involve phishing, which involves the thief trying to trick you into giving them your personal information by impersonating legitimate entities like banks, shopping websites, and etc. To help you understand what phishing looks like, we’ve given some of the most common themes and examples of online phishing attacks as well as tips on how to avoid them.


This is the most recent innovation in phishing schemes. Someone tampers with a website’s host file or domain name system and creates a spoof website that looks very similar to the website of a bank or other organization. You feel safe on this official-looking website and are more comfortable entering your information here. Unfortunately, that data is going straight to the thieves.

Before entering sensitive information, you should always contact the organization’s website administrators and ask why this information is necessary. However, sometimes, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent pharming, since the accountability lies with that institution’s website and network security. If you hear that a recent pharming attack has occurred at an institution whose website you’ve recently visited, cancel your account as soon as possible. Additionally, when these breaches happen, hold corporations and organizations accountable for the security of their customers’ information.

Search Engine Phishing

The way that this scam works is that the thieves create a website that has an undeniably amazing deal that you just can’t turn away from. Maybe it’s a fake shopping website or a fake job searching website. They have rock bottom prices or amazing salaries. They just require you to enter your credit card information first before your order is shipped out to you. Or they need to confirm your social security information before sending your information to the company with this amazingly high paying position. Once you’ve completed the transaction and entered your personal information, they have all they need to commit fraud. These sites are indexed within search engines, so when you search for something like a product or position, they will pop up in the results.

Always do extra research on these deals. Research what other people have said about ordering products from this site. Look up the company that is hiring on not only their own website but other review sites like Glassdoor or Yelp. As a rule of thumb, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If there isn’t much information or talk about whatever these sites are trying to get you into, be suspicious. Your “savings” will only hurt you in the long run.

Spam Phishing

Have you ever received suspicious spam emails telling you about money that you have waiting for you somewhere, an opportunity for a scholarship or free trial, or a deal with a short time limit? These are so common; they’re the reason that spam folder exist. They might claim that they represent an institution that you already have a relationship with (maybe they’ve done research on you) to win your trust over while they try to expedite you through their transaction and information exchange process.

If you are legitimately interested in the company or deal, do some more research on them. Usually a company will post about a sale or deal in more places than one, since the point of sales is attract attention. If you’re not seeing the deal echoed anywhere else on the internet or their promotional materials, it’s probably a scam. Do research on the company as well. What do other people have to say about their experiences with them?


Take care of your own identity by staying vigilant. Share this with all of your friends and family who might not be aware of these scams and attacks. Sometimes it’s the most vulnerable members of our community that are most commonly targeted because of their lack of awareness and faith in others, even when they are impersonators. For more personal and home security tips, be sure to follow us on social media—Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.