Identity Theft – Reducing the Risk – Part 1

Until recently, I was my company’s facility security officer. It was one of those jobs I inherited. One thing that affects a security clearance is identity security. I put together the following presentation on ways to combat identity theft. It is pretty long, so I am releasing it as a three-part series. This is the first part.

What is Identity Theft?

  • America’s fastest growing type of robbery
    • Consumers lost $50 billion last year
    • Estimated 9.9 million victims
  • Thieves steal personal information about you
    • Online, for as little as $14, a person can pick up a new identity, complete with working U.S. bank account, credit card with security code, date of birth and government-issued social security number.
  • They spend money as fast as they can, then move on to impersonate someone else
  • This can affect your security clearance

Personal Information

What do the thieves want?

  • Your name, address, date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Credit card numbers
  • ATM cards
  • Cell phone information

How Is Your Identity Stolen?

Mail Check Fraud

  • You have won the lottery/sweepstakes
    • Please fill out enclosed questionnaire
  • Or “work part-time from home” offer

Mail Check Fraud

  • The victims are told that “due to the delays in clearing checks and money orders in Europe,” they need “financial agents” to process payments for their U.S. orders
  • The victims will receive checks representing U.S orders and deposit them in their personal accounts.
  • Victims are then instructed to immediately transfer the money, minus their supposed fee, to the company.
  • By the time victims discover that the checks that they had deposited are bad, the criminals already have the money that was wired to them and the victims account information for further transactions.

Mail Check Fraud

Example: You may get a check with letter that reads, “A tax and clearance fee of $4,500.55 has been financed with the enclosed check. Kindly deposit or cash the check to pay for your tax and clearance fee. You will receive a total of ($60,499.45), minus $4,500.55 for the TAX. Your agent will elaborate more on that. As soon as you receive this certificate. Please contact your agent bellow for the precessing of your winning.”

Besides the suspicion of getting something for nothing, note the bad grammar and misspellings. These are clues to this being a fraud, as well.

Counterfeit Bank Checks

  • Thinking of selling items on ebay or craigslist?
  • Beware counterfeit bank checks
    • Thief’s tools – computer program and blank check stock to create fake blank checks
  • Thief locates item they want being offered for sale
  • Offers to buy, sends check for substantially more than agreed-upon price

Counterfeit Bank Checks

  • Consumer deposits fake check
  • Bank can’t immediately tell if it’s fake on its face
  • Consumer sends item
  • Bank that “issued” check will eventually identify the check as fake, and will not pay
  • Consumer has to reimburse bank the entire amount of the check

Dumpster Diving

What’s in your trash?

  • Pre-approved credit card offers – thieves complete the application and have card sent to them at another address
  • Loan applications – thieves complete the application and have money sent to a phony address
  • Bank statements – thieves now have your bank account numbers. They create bogus checks
  • Checks – thieves create duplicate checks
  • Company documents – thieves gain advantage on company

ATM Fraud

  • Plastic strip placed into ATM card reader
    • Machine cannot read your card
    • Machine continuously asks for PIN
  • Thief nearby watches PIN being entered
  • Victim thinks ATM is broken and has eaten card
  • Thief removes card and enters PIN

IRS Tax Form Scam

  • “IRS form” received from your bank, requesting sensitive information
    • SSN
    • DOB
    • Bank account numbers
    • PIN numbers
  • Form is similar to real IRS forms
  • Created and sent by an identity thief
  • Once faxed to the number provided, thief has info to clean out your bank accounts

Department Store Scam

  • Purchase made with credit card
  • Phone next to register rings
  • Caller is “store security” – says you are a suspect in a credit card fraud
    • Needs clerk to verify credit card information
    • May ask clerk to get address and SSN
  • Call came from thief on cell phone watching nearby

Skimming Scam

  • Waiter in a restaurant takes your credit or debit card at the end of a meal
    • Uses a small hand-held device (called a “skimmer”) to swipe your card
    • Only takes a second
    • Your card information is stored in the skimmer
  • Thief makes counterfeit card, or makes purchases over the phone or Internet


12 thoughts on “Identity Theft – Reducing the Risk – Part 1

  1. We were once burned by a Skimming Scam- luckily out CC company caught it immediately and I later learned that a couple of waiters at the restaurant I had used my card at were arrested as part of a CC fraud ring.

    1. Hi Em, Thanks for reading and commenting. I remember having to fill out an affidavit stating which charges were not ours.

  2. Holy c**p! I am shocked that they took this to such a degree that one might practically have a clone of them-self without them knowing. I have no idea that all of this information is online. I guess in terms of internet safety I would prefer to stay in the 20th century.
    Great article, very interesting!

    1. Hi David, This part of the article covered the physical theft of your information using card skimmers, stealing mail, and such. Part 2 will cover online identity theft. Stay tuned.

    1. Hi Joshua, As my wife mentioned below, we had our credit card skimmed by employees in a restaurant. I don’t think she is quite right that they were caught before they made many charges. As I recall, they maxed out the credit card on purchases in Las Vegas. We were not held responsible for any of those fraudulent charges.

  3. I didn’t think dumpster diving actually happens until I moved to San Francisco. I consider myself lucky if I go a week without people rifling through my trash. It’s ridiculous. I shred everything!

    1. Hi Untemplater, As you now know, you have to be especially careful in high population areas, like San Fran. Good idea to shred everything.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Looking forward to your suggestions to protect oneself Bryce. This is something I grow increasingly concerned about. Seems the bad guys are always a couple steps ahead of protection systems, scammer techniques are becoming more and more sophisticated and impossible for the average person to detect or even raise suspicion, and that making yourself invulnerable is becoming very nearly impossible. I want to do more to protect myself, but I’m not sure what more I can do, short of abandoning technology totally!

    1. Hi Kurt, It is a constant battle to stay ahead of identity thieves. The best way to protect yourself against information theft, that is mentioned in this post is to shred anything that has your name, address, and other information printed on it. I will talk about electronic email phishing and pharming scams in the next installment.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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