How a Thief Steals Your Identity

Three keys to stealing your identity

  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth

If a financial institution fails to check, an identity thief can get by with even less identifying information.

How a thief can impersonate you

  • Account takeover
    A thief steals your existing credit account information and makes purchases.
  • Application fraud (“true name fraud”)
    A thief uses your Social Security number and other personal data to open new accounts in your name, then uses your credit rating to borrow money and make purchases.

How a thief can get your personal data

Stealing un-safeguarded data from your employer

  • Your employer stores your personal data in media that are not adequately secured.
  • Your employer Insufficiently restricts your personal data when sharing with other companies.
  • Your employer inappropriately uses your Social Security number for identification.

Using crimeware

  • Crimeware (e.g., phishing program, Trojan horse, spyware) installed by a thief on your computer steals your stored personal data.
  • A thief tricks you into entering your personal data at a fake website that mimics an authentic one.
  • Crimeware directs you to a fraudulent website, even if you type the real address into your browser.
  • Antivirus and anti-spyware programs may not detect the newest crimeware.
  • A thief can buy a crimeware kit and use it to steal your personal data.

Dumpster diving

  • A thief rummages through your trash and gets your personal or business information.

Stealing your mail

  • Always use a secured mail box.
  • Your unsecured mail box is a treasure trove of information about you and your business transactions.
  • A mail thief can forward your accounts to another address.


  • A thief swipes your credit card with a scanner and steals the data.
  • If possible, be present when your credit card is swiped, and make certain it is swiped only once.
  • Employers need to screen and train employees, monitor their performance, and encourage stronger laws on scanner use.

Raiding your discarded computer

  • When you discard a computer or other electronic storage device, use special software to completely erase it so that a thief can’t retrieve your stored data.
  • Simply deleting data does not physically erase it from a hard drive.


  • All NC State computer equipment that is to be surplussed must have the hard drive completely erased or removed and destroyed.
  • It must also have verification paperwork completed.
  • Removal software is available to students, faculty and staff.
  • See Data Removal for instructions.

Go to Identity Theft main page.

Go to Safe Computing at NC State.