13 More Things An Identity Thief Won’t Tell You

Former identity thieves spill the beans on everything from which credit card is the most difficult to steal, to why your dumpster is a gold mine for thieves.

Interviews by Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest | September 2010

1. My least-favorite credit card? American Express, because it likes to ask me for your zip code.

2. Your unlocked mailbox is a gold mine. I can steal your account numbers, use the convenience checks that come with your credit card statement, and send in pre-approved credit offers to get a card in your name. Stealing mail is easy. Sometimes, I act like I’m delivering flyers. Other times, I just stand there and riffle through it. If I don’t look suspicious, your neighbors just think I’m a friend picking up your mail.

3. Even with all the new technology, most of us still steal your information the old-fashioned way: by swiping your wallet or purse, going through your mail, or Dumpster diving.

4. I dig through Dumpsters in broad daylight
. If anyone asks (and no one does), I just say my girlfriend lost her ring, or that I may have thrown my keys away by mistake.

13 More Things An Identity Thief Won’t Tell You© Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock
5. One time I was on the run and needed a new identity so I went through a hospital Dumpster and found a statement with a Puerto Rican Social Security number for a Manuel Rivera. For a good two years after that, I was Manuel Rivera. I had his name on my apartment, on my paychecks and, of course, on my credit cards.

6. Is your Social Security number on your driver’s license or  your checks, or is it your account number for your health insurance? Dumb move.

7. When I send out e-mails “phishing” for personal information
by posing as a bank or online merchant, I often target AOL customers. They just seem less computer literate—and more likely (I hope) to fall for my schemes.

8. I never use my home computer to buy something with a credit card that’s not mine. That’s why you can often find me at the public library.

9. If you use the same ATM every time, you’re a lot more likely to notice if something changes on the machine, like the skimmer I installed.

10. Sometimes I pose as a salesman and go into a small office
. After I make my pitch, I ask the secretary to make me a copy. Since most women leave their purses on the floor by their chairs, as soon as they leave the room, I grab their wallet. I also check the top and bottom right-hand drawers of their desks, where I often find company checks.

11. How much is your information worth? I can buy stolen account information—your name, address, credit card number, and more—for $10 to $50 per account from hackers who advertise on more than a dozen black market web sites.

12. Hey, thanks for writing your PIN number on that little slip of paper in your wallet. I feel like I just won the lottery.

13. Sure, it may be nice not to have to put in your password when you use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. But know this: We have software that can scoop up all the data your computer transmits, including your passwords and other sensitive information.

PLUS: 13 Things An Identity Thief Won’t Tell You

Sources: Former identity thieves in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, and New York.