Keeping Up With the Identity Thieves

Nicole Treadwell |

Identity thieves are upping their game. In their relentless pursuit of your personal identifying information (PII) they are constantly evolving in their technology and their techniques to stay one step ahead of you. In past blog posts we have hammered on the steps you need to take to fortify your defenses against identity theft. It is up to you to take every precaution you possibly can, but even that may not be enough. You also need to stay abreast of how they are changing their game. These are a few of the methods law agencies are reporting as increasing in use.

Credit Card Skimmers

Although credit card skimming has been around for a while as a proven method for stealing credit card information, it is becoming more wide spread because anyone can now buy a skimmer for $40 on Amazon. Card skimming devices are placed on ATMs or point-of-sale terminals at gas stations waiting for victims.

We have long been warned to examine the card reader on the machine to look for anything out of the ordinary – a loose fitting, or an odd color.  But some of these skimming devices are very authentic looking, and now thieves are placing a PIN-snatching overlay over the keyboard to capture PIN numbers.  Even without that, thieves can watch you PIN entry from a nearby camera. The bigger threat may be the handheld skimmers. Anytime your credit card is out of your sight, it takes just a few seconds to swipe the card and capture your PII.

The best defense is to be overly vigilant. Don’t use ATMs in remote locations. At point-of-sale terminals use your cards that contain an EMV chip as they are harder to skim.

Phishing, Spoofing and Smishing

Phishing is another form of ID theft that has been around for a while, and thought to be outdated due to the improvements in spam technology. However, the phishing fraudsters have been successful in staying a step ahead of security technology by upgrading the quality of their attacks. Phishing emails, which are designed to lure a person into providing sensitive account information or a Social Security number, are looking more authentic, and are better at avoiding spam detection.

Spoofing can occur in a couple of ways – on your cell phone or computer. Spoofing is when someone masquerades as someone or something in order to gather sensitive information. On your cell phone, it could happen when your caller ID shows an unfamiliar number, or a number that looks to be legitimate. The person on the other line claims to be from your bank or brokerage firm requesting account update information.

It can also occur on your computer when a scammer sets up a fraudulent website to obtain information or install a virus. The website masquerades as a bank or a retail store, asking for log in information as any legitimate website does. However, when you log in, the scammer can use your information to log into the real website and access your account.


Smishing is similar to phishing except it uses cell phone text messages as the lure. In most cases, the text return address is a URL or phone number. The message usually asks for your prompt response. If you don’t recognize the phone number or URL address, do not respond.

Whether its card skimming, phishing, spoofing or smishing, the objective of the thief is the same: To trick you out of your personal identification information.  The only defense is your vigilance and your strict adherence to the cardinal rule of identity theft protection – Under no circumstances should you ever provide sensitive information, including a credit card number or an account number, over the phone or through an email, unless you can absolutely verify the legitimacy of the caller. There is absolutely no reason to give your full Social Security number over the phone or through an email.

*This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal or tax counsel. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a representation by us of a specific investment or the purchase or sale of any securities. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. This material was developed and produced by Advisor Websites to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. Copyright 2024 Advisor Websites.