Tactics Thieves Use to Drain Your Bank Account

One out of every six people will have their identity stolen this year, and, on average, it’ll cost them $1,500 to repair the damage. So to keep your money safe, we’re taking you inside the minds of the bad guys. Reader’s Digest sat down with former identity thieves to get the top five tactics they use to drain your bank account. 

  • Tactic #1: The Point and Shoot: The thief stands behind you at the grocery store and snaps a pic when you pull out your card. He can even record a video of you entering your pin, all while pretending to go through his phone contacts. 
  • Tactic#2: The Mailman: The bad guys drive through neighborhoods, looking for mailboxes with the flag up. When they find one, that loan application you were sending to your bank, or your credit card bill is now in their hands. So if you’re sending something with your info on it, take it to the post office yourself.
  • Tactic #3: The Skimmer: Identity thieves put a machine, called a skimmer, onto the ATM machine or on the gas station pump. The skimmer grabs all your info off of the magnetic strip. Then, with another machine, that costs about $50, they recreate the strip and attach it to a new card. Now they have direct access to your bank account.
  • Tactic #4: The Garbageman. Crooks troll through neighborhoods on garbage day, filling their trunk with trash bags. They’ll snag old bills, pre-approved credit cards or even a loan application. Once they have that information there’s no stopping them.
  • Which leads to our final tactic: The Chameleon: With your old bills or a preapproved credit card in hand the identity thief becomes you. With just a few key pieces of info they can talk the bank into activating cards or trick a customer service rep into giving them even more useful numbers.

So, now you know what to look for, but what can you do? First, get a credit card with your picture on it and use it, instead of your debit card. Then buy a shredder and shred everything. Identity thieves aren’t going to spend the time taping things back together when there are easier marks out there! Finally, to stop getting those preapproved credit cards in the mail, call 1-888-5-OPT OUT.

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