How Does Identity Theft Happen and How to Protect Yourself

Last Updated on September 21, 2023

In the modern, digital world, protecting your online identity and personal information is a crucial step in safeguarding your life against thieves. Identity thieves can strike from any angle – through your email, phone, or even posing as a repair or inspection person. 

You need to protect yourself and your family from criminals who want access to your SSN, address, birth date, and other personal information to take over your identity. With a reliable online protection program, you can avoid the attention of identity thieves

Here are the different ways that identity thieves can get a hold of your information.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when a thief takes over your digital identity using your SSN, account numbers, name and address, medical insurance information, or banking information. 

This particular type of fraud is demoralizing and devastating. If you’ve ever wondered, “How does identity theft happen?” you should arm yourself with the knowledge of how to stop it before it happens

There are a few different ways that thieves can get their hands on this type of information, and when they do, they can wreak havoc on your life. With your personal identity information, they can purchase items, make new accounts, get new credit cards in your name, pretend they’re you in the event of an arrest, divert your mail, or get medical care. With credit cards nowadays, anyone can set up your information and purchase things under your name without you knowing it.

They can also divert your mail by filling out a change-of-address form at the Post Office, diverting all your mail to an address of their choosing. Once digital thieves have your information, the possibilities of what they can do with it are vast.

Of course, the threat to you is if a thief is arrested posing as you, it is on your permanent record until it is expunged. New credit cards, if not paid promptly, can destroy your credit standing

Beyond that, identity theft is a severe invasion of privacy; in addition to ruining your finances and credit, identity theft leaves you vulnerable. To stop this calamity before it occurs, you should understand how the thieves get your information in the first place. You can’t afford to be complacent because even with your family or relatives identity theft is still possible.

Read More: Types of Identity Theft

How Does Identity Theft Occur?

One aspect that makes identity theft so pernicious is that it can happen in different ways and in the blink of an eye. Through your email, phone, mail, or trash, thieves can steal your identity. They also use phishing scams and data breaches to net lots of victims.

Data Breaches

Breaches are large-scale events that occur when identity thieves breach the firewalls and other digital defense mechanisms of a big company or corporation, netting hundreds if not thousands of identities in one illegal action. 

These thefts make headlines and involve class-action lawsuits. Sometimes data breaches are accidental, like if an employee mistakenly left their computer and their work accounts open. However, the threat is the same as it doesn’t matter if the breach was intentional or not once the information has been stolen. 


Some of the large information breaches are unintended when employees are careless with their company information or work computers or leave accounts open in public places. 

Other data breaches are intentional when a thief or team of thieves figures out how to bypass a company’s defense system for a larger score. Either way, the result is disastrous for those affected by data breaches

There are even sneakier ways to get access; by sending misleading, fabricated emails to employees or individuals, thieves can sometimes get you to click a link, which opens a virus that breaches the computer’s defenses and gives them access to your information. 

Digital thieves can also mount more complicated technical attacks. Usually, these attacks are directed toward large databases of customer information, but individuals should still be wary of odd-looking email attachments and unknown senders. 

Thieves have also been known to text or call, so just because it’s not in an email doesn’t mean it isn’t suspicious.


Much like raccoons, identity thieves are not above digging through your trash for something they want. But instead of table scraps or leftovers, thieves are searching for mail you might’ve tossed that has clues to your identity

The safest way to protect yourself from identity theft is to shred any documents you’re throwing away that have an address, full name, social security number, bank information, or medical information. 

It’s not usually one document or letter with all this information on it, but a compilation of docs, all put together like a jigsaw puzzle. That’s why it’s best to dispose of all trash using a cross-cut to shred your documents and avoid dumpster-diving identity thieves

Lost Social Security Card

Every American is issued a Social Security Number (SSN) in the hospital, and eventually, a Social Security card will come to the baby’s home. This card is one of the most crucial documents establishing your identity. If digital thieves get their hands on your Social Security card, they can do a lot of damage

There are two prongs to protecting your Social Security cardstrong protection and fast action if it goes missing. You should keep your Social Security card in the place you store your most valuable possessions like a safe or bank deposit box.  

If your card turns up missing, report it to SSA immediately. Never give out your SSN if you don’t need to; one of the various ways identity thieves get your SSN is by calling you up and inventing a credible enough reason for you to give it to them.

Weak Data Protection

Protecting your digital information is vital in the 21st century. Many consumers do their business online, giving out information through their computers. If you don’t have an adequate protection plan for your digital information, you’re vulnerable.

If you’ve been wondering, “How does identity theft happen?” you need to invest in a reliable, digital protection program to safeguard your online files from identity thieves. Keep this in mind when you’re offline as well, as you don’t want just anyone who comes into your house to be able to pick up vital information from the documents you leave about the place. 

Store documents containing crucial identity information in a lockable filing cabinet and invest in a robust home security system with Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, motion detectors, and Smart connectivity. 

The Takeaway

Identity theft is a serious business. You need to take precautions against people who want to hack into your life and steal your identity to buy things in your name, apply for apartments, get medical care, and more.

Ensure your online self is protected with a digital data protection service that will safeguard your most personal information at all times, and take care to store physical paperwork securely and shred documents you no longer need. 

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