10 Pieces of Information That Are Used to Steal Your Identity
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According to the Department of Justice, identity theft cost victims more than household burglary, motor theft, and property theft combined. It can have a significant consequence for victims, and nobody should experience the stress that it causes.

Let’s explore the 10 pieces of information that thieves use to steal identities.

What Do Scammers Need to Steal Your Identity?

Scammers don’t need all 10 of these items to crack your identity; just a few will suffice. As such, you need to protect each one to ensure nothing devastating happens in the future.

1. Your Social Security Number

A pair of social security cards
Image Credit: zimmytws/Shutterstock

Social Security Numbers can confirm your identity in a wide variety of places. This ranges opening a PayPal account to getting government documents. It can be used to make a new bank account, access online accounts, or file a fraudulent tax return.

In short, the social security number (or its equivalent, if you live in another country) is a jackpot for an identity thief. And once they have this number, it’s easier to collect the other information they need to steal your identity.

2. Your Date and Place of Birth

Surprisingly, your birth date can also be used by a scammer to steal your identity. What can a scammer do with your date of birth?

It’s asked for on most official forms from governmental paperwork to financial accounts. Your place of birth is also used as a secondary confirmation measure by several online providers. This could be used to reset your password or grant thieves access to your account.

Unfortunately, people tend to advertise their dates of birth all over the Internet. Social media makes it easy to let everyone know when a special day is coming up, so people are keen to share it with the world.

3. Your Financial Account Numbers

Financial accounts are highly sought after by identity thieves. This includes checking and savings account numbers, credit and debit card numbers, and retirement fund accounts.

With an account number, an identifying piece of information, and a password or PIN, a thief could gain access to any of these accounts and start siphoning away money.

Thankfully, you probably don’t share account numbers very often. Not many people put their credit card up on Twitter! As such, it’s quite easy to protect this information. Just be sure these numbers aren’t where a scammer could find it, such as on a sticky note on your desk.

With the rise of healthcare fraud 5 Reasons Why Medical Identity Theft is Increasing 5 Reasons Why Medical Identity Theft is Increasing Scammers want your personal details and bank account information – but did you know that your medical records are also of interest to them? Find out what you can do about it. Read More , it’s also a good idea to protect your health insurance numbers and any other similar information you might have.

4. Your Banking PINs

Someone entering their PIN into a card reader
Image Credit: RTimages/Shutterstock

Your personal identification numbers should randomized, but a vast amount of people use combinations like “1234,” “5280,” and “1111” to secure their credit and debit cards. Thieves know this, so if you have a weak PIN, it’s easier for them to crack into your card if stolen.

People often use personal information for PINs, such as birth dates. Unfortunately, as we covered above, this information is regularly posted on social media and easily found. Hackers will try these numbers first, so don’t base your PIN on a number that someone could research.

Also, be sure to use different PINs for different accounts. If an identity thief gets into one account, you don’t want to give them free access to another!

5. Your Card Expiration Dates and Security Codes

When you make an online purchase with your credit or debit card, you usually need to enter the expiration date and security code.

If a thief has your card number and these pieces of information, they can freely use your card on the Internet. Advanced skimmers can get this information from an infected terminal, but phishing is still a standard method scammers use.

As such, don’t give this out unless you’re sure that you’re talking to someone who needs it. Phone phishing scams target this information, so be suspicious if you receive any surprise calls from your credit card company.

6. Your Physical and Email Address

Both of these can be used in phishing to get you to reveal personal information. Even past addresses can be useful, as some organizations will ask for your previous address during sign-up. All this information can lead to whaling, a type of cyberattack that’s worse than phishing.

Your email address is also your username for a lot of online accounts. With the right pieces of information, a thief could access the account or reset the password. Like our birthdays, our email addresses are usually pretty easy to find, but you may want to consider putting it out there a little less.

7. Your Driver’s License or Passport Number

A canadian passport
Image Credit: NAN728/Shutterstock

Both your driver’s license and passport number can help identity thieves get more information about you. After all, these contain your full name, date of birth, nationality, and address.

If a scammer steals your license or passport, it can be altered to include a picture of someone else. Once done, they can use it to access various parts of your life.

A passport is especially dangerous, as it could lead to identity theft on an international level. The scammer can create accounts in your name in other countries, and any existing accounts in other countries could potentially be accessed. It’s even possible that an altered passport would allow a thief to travel internationally under your name.

8. Your Phone Number

Your phone number isn’t used for identity verification very often, but it can be put to great use by a talented phisher. They can call and claim they’re with a financial or governmental institution to get more identifying information from you.

Most people are pretty hesitant to give out their phone numbers, but one slip-up could mean you have scammers on the way. It’s a good idea to stay vigilant about giving out your phone number, but being a little suspicious of people who call is probably warranted, too.

9. Your Full Name

This information appears a lot on the Internet, so you might not think of it as valuable information to a thief. However, your full first, middle, and last name can be quite useful to a thief. This information is especially helpful if they’re looking to open a new account in your name.

When making an online purchase, some companies ask for the “Name as it appears on the card.” If a thief knows your full name, they’ll be able to make a better guess at what might be on your card.

10. Your Affiliations, Memberships, and Employer

Again, you might not think that this is information that would be valuable to an identity thief. However, such information can be used in phishing attacks, specifically spear phishing What Is Spear Phishing? How to Spot and Avoid This Email Scam What Is Spear Phishing? How to Spot and Avoid This Email Scam Received a fake email from your bank? Its part of a scamming technique called spear phishing. Here's how to stay safe. Read More .

Most people are much more likely to give out identifying information if they think they’re talking to someone from one of their groups. This group could be work friends, a sports club, a fan club, or even an Internet group.

As with any means of phishing, your best bet is to be vigilant and make sure that you’re talking to who you think they are. If someone asks for personal identifying information, it’s a good idea to confirm with the organization that they need it and that someone called for it.

Protecting Your Data and Identity on the Internet

It’s surprising just how much information a scammer can work with to steal your identity. Identity theft is an awful thing, so don’t give scammers a free pass to your details.

If you’re worried about what you’re revealing on the internet, be sure to learn how hackers steal your identity on social media. 7 Ways Hackers Steal Your Identity on Social Media 7 Ways Hackers Steal Your Identity on Social Media Here are several ways your identity can be stolen on social media. Yes, scammers can steal your identity on Facebook! Read More

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  1. mike
    October 6, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    You would think that with all these people running around with their knickers in a knot about security would rake over the coals the companies like Google mail etc. to make them more security conscious. When you login to these sites they show your email address in your login and don't require people to type it in; so any shoulder surfers etc. immediately have half the security defeated right up front. Also, this "keep me logged in" feature is another bonehead idea that leaves a person's account open to anyone who can take advantage of a bathroom break when a person steps away from their computer. I could go on, but you get the idea, on one hand everyone is up in arms about security and on the other hand companies are removing these items to make it more convenient for their users. You can have it both ways.
    Security is hard, and the harder you make it the more secure you are, but the more difficult it is for people to use the system, the easier you make it the less secure. I wish someone would explain the "facts of life" to these people.

  2. Sherylz
    August 28, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    Re: "15 of the Worst YouTube Coments..."
    Maybe this article needs to be updated for 2019. I suppose it depends on what you're watching, but I keep seeing this:
    "Nobody:"
    "Absolutely no one:"
    "No one on the whole earth:"....

    And variations on this theme. Where TF did this come from and can we please make it go away?

  3. raleigh48
    August 24, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    "If you’re worried about what you’re revealing on the internet"
    I'm not worried about what I am revealing because my security I can control. What I AM worried about is what various companies (such as Equifax, Target, my bank) are revealing about me when their databases are breached because their security I have absolutely no control over.

  4. Anonymous
    April 6, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    And yet we are constantly urged, if not forced, to conduct our business online where any and all the above information may demanded from us. Given the state of corporate security, or rather the state of hacker sophistication, putting anything on the 'Net is asking for trouble.

    As an example, it is getting harder and harder to download either TurboTax or TaxAct and do one's taxes locally on one's PC. But it is very easy to do them online and e-file. What guarantee do we have that Intuit or 2nd Story Software of IRS servers are secure enough not to allow our personal data from being disseminated all over creation? Also, would Intuit, 2nd Story and/or IRS even let on if they were subject to a security breach?!

    • Dann Albright
      April 7, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      The security of company servers has always been an issue. I assume that tax companies make a pretty strong effort in getting top-notch security because they know a single big leak would totally ruin them. That probably means that there's no guarantee that they'd release news of a leak, but at the same time, it's hard for me to imagine that someone wouldn't either figure it out really quickly and bring it to public attention or that there would be someone inside the company that would leak that information to the media. I don't really know, though; it's hard to tell!