Picture3According to the U.S. Secret Service, the revenue from trafficking financial data has surpassed that of trafficking drugs. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a survey in December 2013 reporting that an estimated 16.6 million people (7% of all Americans age 16 or older) were victims of identity theft in 2012. Those victims reported a total of $24.7 billion in direct and indirect losses. There are an estimated 27,000 new victims every day — 1 out of 10 children and 1 out of 6 adults annually, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission.


  • Identity thieves use your personal information to clean out your bank accounts, cash in your investments, apply for credit cards or loans, buy thousands of dollars of merchandise, etc.
  • Identity thieves use your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job.
  • Identity thieves use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider or get other care.
  • Identity thieves provide your personal information to law enforcement when caught breaking the law.
  • Identity thieves use your personal information to live as you — popular for illegal immigrants or criminals hiding from the law.


  • Go through trash cans, dumpsters or public dumps looking for bills and other documents containing personal information.
  • Take employment positions (or pay others) to steal personal information.
  • Complete a change of address form to divert mail to another location.
  • Steal your wallet, purse, backpack or mail and remove your credit cards, driver’s license, passport, health insurance card and other items that show personal information (or take photos of those documents so you don’t know they’re missing).
  • Steal or break into your vehicle to access your registration, insurance card or other sensitive information left in your vehicle.
  • Misuse the name of a legitimate business to call or send emails (phishing) that trick you into revealing personal information.
  • Send you a text message containing a link to a fraudulent website or phone number in an attempt collect your personal information (smishing).
  • Pretend to offer a job, a loan or an apartment, and ask you to send personal information to “qualify”.
  • Find personal information you share on the internet.
  • Use ATM, gas pump, or point-of-sale (POS) skimmers which steal credit and debit card information stored on the card’s magnetic strip when inserted into the machine.
  • Use RFID skimmers to wirelessly access credit card information from RFID-enabled cards carried in your wallet or purse from up to 2 feet away.
  • Take photos of or copy credit cards at restaurants.
  • Steal or find a lost smartphone or laptop that hasn’t been password-protected.
  • Use viruses, spyware or spoofing/dummy webpages to access your personal information.
  • Access personal information through a data breach.

DMJ explores Identity Theft in a three-part blog series. “Identity Theft – Be Aware, Prepare, and Take Care” will address common types of theft, how to protect yourself, and what to do if your identity is stolen. For additional resources, visit DMJ’s fraud detection and prevention webpage for more information about DMJ fraud services.