I’d like to start this post by telling you 63.5 percent of all identity theft and credit card fraud takes place in “old-fashioned” or “low-tech” ways. But I can’t. It’s not possible to accurately quantify all the ways thieves can steal your money, use your credit cards, and ruin your good credit score.

“Customers who contact us wouldn’t necessarily know their information was compromised through something like ‘dumpster diving,'”says Victor Searcy, Director of Fraud Operations for IDT911*, an identity theft and data risk management consulting firm that provides fraud solutions for Fortune 500 companies and more.

Searcy does have some statistics to share.

Through ISISS, our proprietary Identity Solution and Investigative Support System, we know that 63 percent of situations where a customer’s information is exposed is from good ol’ fashioned theft, including car and home break-ins. In 49 percent of those situations, credit or debit cards are taken and that is when “low-tech” crimes can be committed.

The Identity Theft Resource Center, also shared some figures with CreditDad.com, and they were significantly lower.

According to our data breach report, 15.4 percent of all data breaches so far this year have been paper as opposed to electronic,

says Karen Barney, of ITRC which works with shredder manufacturer Fellowes, Inc. to inform consumers about the dangers of identity theft and how to prevent it.

Paper breaches can also be much more damaging, because thieves often get their hands on a lot of information, rather than say, a single name, email address and account number. “Paper breaches often mean all of an individual’s personal identifying information is available to the identity thief, including extras like what their signature looks like,” Barney says.

Low-Tech Identity Theft on the Rise?

As Congress introduces bills designed to crack down harder on hackers and mandate stricter Internet security measures, there’s a chance low-tech methods of identity theft and credit card fraud will rise. “Low-tech methods are exactly that – low-tech. This means they are cheap to use and that anybody is capable of using these low-tech ways to create identity theft,” XX observes.

What can you do to protect yourself? Let’s take a look at five common ways thieves can steal your identity and how you can prevent it.

Identity Theft Method #1 – Home burglary

Searcy notes that only 11 percent of credit card fraud takes place after someone loses their wallet. It’s more likely that your credit or debit card will be stolen from your home.

Protect Yourself – Take all your credit and debit cards with you when you leave the house. Afraid carrying all those cards won’t bode well for your budget? Put all but one emergency credit card in a safe deposit box. Also, keep important, identity-bearing papers such as the deed to your home, your birth certificate, and old tax forms (keep the ones for the past 7 years) in a safe that’s well hidden, or stow them in a safe deposit box, too. Don’t leave mail or credit card bills with account numbers lying around when you go out. Also protect your home with a good security system that connects directly to the police.

Identity Theft Method #2 – “Dumpster diving”

Experts listed dumpster diving, when thieves search through garbage for important papers, as a popular “low-tech identity theft” method.

Protect yourself – Shred everything with your name and address on it. {ID} lists these “absolute must-shred documents”:

  • Old tax returns (keep them for seven years)
  • Bank statements
  • Credit Card Offers
  • Old Photo ID Cards (such as your driver’s license)
  • Pay stubs (which often bear your social security number)
  • Convenience checks
  • Canceled checks
  • Canceled or expired credit or debit cards

Identity Theft Method #3 – Stealing your credit card number off the card

Protect yourself – Don’t hand over your credit card to anyone. Be prepared to pay cash in restaurants, where servers take your credit cards out of view for processing.

Identity Theft Method #4 – Pick-pocketing

While chances are slim that a lost or stolen wallet or purse will be picked up by someone who is cold-hearted enough to use your credit cards or steal your identity, pick-pockets and purse-snatchers may be an “old-school” threat.

Protect yourself – If you’re going somewhere with a lot of people in tightly-packed spaces (think sporting events, theme parks or Times Square on New Year’s Eve), carry cash and just one credit card. Leave the rest in your safe deposit box (not at home, see item #1)! If someone does steal your wallet or your purse, and you catch them, remember that no information is worth your life. Don’t chase the thief or try to fight them. Call and cancel the cards that were in there, and put a “freeze” on your credit reports, which prevents anyone from opening new credit in your name.

Identity Theft Method #5 – Stealing identity-bearing documents from your mail

Protect yourself – Brng in your mail as soon as it arrives, or get a P.O. Box to have mail delivered securely. Mail fraud is a federal crime, but that doesn’t stop thieves from using this easy identity theft method.

The best identity theft protection is awareness. Check your credit reports frequently and read bank and credit card statements carefully. If something doesn’t look right, contact your bank or credit card company right away to investigate and possibly file a claim. You can get a free credit report annually, with no strings attached, at annualcreditreport.com. And if you are a victim of identity theft or turned down for credit, you are also entitled to free copies of your credit reports.

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