FTC Identity Theft Guide: How Identity Theft Happens

FTC Identity Theft Guide: How Identity Theft Happens

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes.

It's more than a criminal making an isolated attempt to steal money from an existing account, such as a charge on a stolen credit card. With identity theft, a thief uses stolen personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank account number, to open accounts or initiate several transactions in your name.

The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make--or until you're contacted by a debt collector.

Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including:

  • Dumpster diving.
    They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  • Skimming.
    They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  • Phishing.
    They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. Pinnacle will never call, email or otherwise contact you for your personal information. However, we may ask you questions to verify your identity, should you need to contact us.
  • Changing your address.
    They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a “change of address” form.
  • “Old-fashioned” stealing.
    They 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 from their employers or bribe employees who have access.

Deter thieves by safeguarding your information. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, we have tools that may be able to help you through the process. Call our information center at 800.264.3613.

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