You’ve probably been hearing about identity theft for some time now – and you should be aware that it’s a growing problem. However, you won’t be alone in asking – how does identity theft really work? Understanding the different methods thieves can use to steal your identity is the first step in protecting against it – so we’re going to look at how it happens.

What methods do thieves use to steal your identity?

Mail theft

This is one of the oldest ways to steal identities, but it’s also one of the most common because it’s so simple. You’d be surprised how many people simply throw out important mail without shredding it. Any piece of post with your name and address on it could be used to fill out a change of address request and divert your important mail elsewhere. Finding bank or credit card statements is like hitting the jackpot for an identity thief as it contains such vital information related to your personal finances.

You might think that identity theft is high-tech and only done by hackers – but many thieves will rummage through your trash to get what they want. Make sure you shred your mail.

Social Media

Some people post far too much information about their lives online. This information can be used against them. While you hopefully aren’t sharing your bank account information, things like relatives names or dates of birth can be used to gain access to your passwords. Make sure you think twice about what you share online – even simple location information could be enough to lead to an identity theft.


While not all identity thieves are capable of hacking large websites to get your information – some are. Even for those that aren’t – the lists of hacked information are often sold to criminals on the black market. While it can be hard to protect against this on a personal level – make sure you only store important information on well-known sites you can rely on. Even this might not be enough, but you can also protect yourself by varying your passwords for different sites so that if one gets hacked – you don’t lose access to the rest of them.

Who is at risk from identity theft?

While no group is without risk – there are a number that are targeted more often, especially vulnerable groups like old people and children. People who haven’t grown up with or are new to the internet might find not be aware of simple common sense when it comes to online security.

What can you do next?

Make sure you follow the advice in this article. It’s a start – but it might not be enough peace of mind for everyone. If you want to take your identity security to the next level, you could try identity theft protection.