Forms of Identity Theft

Know the Forms of Identity Theft: 

  • Physical/Social: 
    • Stealing mail directly from your mailbox, or by illegally forwarding your mail to another address (done by forging a Canada Post “Change of Address” request form or replying to stolen mail saying that your address has changed)
    • Stealing purses and wallets, or finding lost ones.
    • “Dumpster Diving”: sifting through garbage/recycling for discarded mail or personal information.
    • “Shoulder Surfing”: reading your PIN over your shoulder.
    • Eavesdropping.
    • “Skimming”: Running your credit card through an electronic “skimmer,” which copies the card’s data for later use. Skimmers are sold legally.[11]  
    • Camera phones: taking photos of your credit card number.
    • Impersonation of law enforcement officials, landlords, or representatives of businesses, asking for your credit card information, credit report, or personal information.
    • Breaking into cars, offices, or businesses with personal information files.
    • Stealing cell phones, laptops, or other personal electronic devices.
    • Searching through public records, newspapers, and phonebooks.
    • Bribing corrupt employees.
    • “Pretexting”: charming victims, or a third party who knows the victim well, into sharing personal information by securing their trust. 
  • Electronic: 
    • Email scams, called “phishing”: a fraudulent email created to emulate an email from a legitimate business that asks for passwords, credit card information, or personal information.
    • Telephone scams, called “vishing”: a fraudulent phone call that asks for passwords, credit card information, or personal information.
    • Website redirection schemes, called “pharming”: a hacker corrupts the DNS, which directs users to URL addresses, to redirect internet traffic to fraudulent websites that will collect personal information.[12]
    • Fax scams
    • ATM tampering
    • Debit and credit card machine tampering
    • Hacking into your computer or databases with personal information
    • Computer spyware, malware or viruses
    • Recovering deleted files from a used computer (bought second hand or  found in the garbage) 

Learn How to Identify Scams: 

  • In emails, words are often misspelled or the signed name does not coincide with the email address or country.[13]
  • Fraudulent emails, letters, or telephone calls will often conjure a sense of urgency to lessen the chance of reflection by the receiver.[14]
  • Fraudulent emails request personal information, legitimate emails from creditors or financial institutions normally do not.[15]
  • Fraudulent websites are often not secured. Secure websites have https:// in their URL, or a picture of a closed lock or key in the bottom right of the window.
  • Unexpected phone calls from creditors and banks, offers, and prizes are often scams.
  • Verify the identity of a caller or email by reinitiating contact with the appropriate phone number or email address from the phone book or legitimate company website.  

Test Your Knowledge:  

  • Take the online quizzes on scams, fraud, identity theft, and personal risk levels from Reporting email scams, fraud, and instances of identity theft to Phonebusters.  

Avoiding identity theft for businesses: 


  • Only collect required information, and acquire proper consent for it. 

Storage and Disposal: 

  • Lock up any personal information concerning both employees and clients in filing cabinets or password protect and encrypt this information on computers.
  • Install an alarm system and video cameras.
  • Install firewall, anti-virus, and spyware programs on your computer.
  • Update these programs regularly.
  • Discard unnecessary documents on a regular basis.
  • Shred any documents with personal information that you are discarding.
  • Keep public and private areas of your office separate: prevent public access to your computer server or files.
  • Limit employee access to sensitive files: only those who need it, and only what they need. 


Train employees in proper collection, disposal, and consent procedures.  

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