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Due to change in technology, methods used by criminals to steal identity are quickly changing every now and then. The following are some of the methods that have been used in the past and they can be divided into three categories.Information given awayThis is the simplest method people use to steal other people's identity. This is mostly witnessed in social networking sites. It is imperative that you have privacy controls in your social networking sites and do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.Offline methods


This occurs when the identity thief contacts a business and impersonates a legitimate customer to request details of their contact information


Capturing the details encoded on the magnetic strips on the back of the credit and eftpos cards. These data is then put onto a black card and used to access the account.

Shoulder surfing

This is looking over the shoulder of an individual, as they are entering their pin at an ATM, when using internet banking in public place or at eftpos terminal.

Wallet or document theft

This is stealing or acquiring a document belonging to person and using the information on that document, if this is a wallet, there is likely to be a huge amount of information about the person on the wallet.

Business record theft

This involves stealing data from a business and it can either be paper records or computerized data. The data can be in large numbers than pretexting and both can also involve staff members.Online methods


These are software used to cause harm to a computer system or to subvert it for a different use than what it is meant for. Some of the malware includes worms, Trojan horses, backdoors, screen scrapers, root kits and spyware.


This is luring people into providing information using emails and mirror websites which look like they come from legitimate business.


This is the same as phishing however; it is usually directed towards the cell phones. Take note as the smart phones are advancing, so is smishing.


These are unsolicited electronic messages which can be used by criminals who are phishing or to deliver malware.


This is exploiting vulnerabilities in an electronic system or the computer software with the intention of stealing personal data.How to prevent identify theft

Be careful with your private information in terms of how much you give out and whom you give it to.

Always confirm why someone or an organization are asking you for your identity information and find out what they are intending to do with it

Always be suspicious of unexpected events such as letters from creditors or bank transactions you could not remember. These could be as a result of identity theft.

Ensure you remove all personal information from your personal computer before you dispose them.

Ensure you properly dispose, such as shredding or burning of your bank statements, electricity bills and any piece of correspondence with your name and address on it. These documents should never be dumped in a public rubbish bins or the recycle bin.

If you are using internet banking do not do that on shared or public computers.

Go for an identity theft insurance program. These protection plans are important since:

Identity theft cannot only be related to financial loss but it can be sued to commit a fraud or other illegal activities leaving you liable.

Most insurers take it upon themselves to offer both credit monitoring and fraud resolution and restoration. This is separate from your expenses coverage after your loss.

Insurers also advice you what to do in the event of identity theft

What to do if you are a victim of identity theft- Put a Fraud Alert on your Credit reportsThis puts a red flag on your credit report and notifies lenders and creditors that they should be more careful when verifying your identity before extending any credit.- Contact the institution directly affectedFor instance if your credit card was stolen, report the issue to the credit card issuer.- File a police reportTo complete your ID theft report, contact your law enforcement officer and report the theft. The theft report will help you while dealing with the creditor reporting agencies.- Protect your social security numberContact the social security administration and the internal revenue service to protect your social security number.- Contact the federal trade commissionIn this case, you can file an Identity Theft affidavit and create an Identity theft report.
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