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26 Secrets an Identity Thief Definitely Doesn’t Want You to Know

Watch out: These former identity thieves confess the tricks they use to scam you right under your nose.

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Watch your back

In line at the grocery store, I’ll hold my phone like I’m looking at the screen and snap your card as you’re using it. Next thing you know, I’m ordering things online—on your dime. If you lose your wallet, take these 10 steps to stop identity theft.

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We see when you pay your bills

That red flag tells the mail carrier—and me—that you have outgoing mail. And that can mean credit card numbers and checks I can reproduce.

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Watch your bank statements

Check your bank and credit card balances at least once a week. I can do a lot of damage in the 30 days between statements. These are the most common digital passwords. Make sure that yours isn't on the list.

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Always get cards with a chip

In Europe, all credit cards have an embedded chip and require a PIN, which makes them a lot harder to hack. Here, I can duplicate the magnetic stripe technology with a $50 machine. These password recovery questions are insanely easy to hack.

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Track your mail

If a bill doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, don’t breathe a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.

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Tear up important documents before you throw them away

That’s me driving through your neighborhood at 3 a.m. on trash day. I fill my trunk with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort later. Avoid these reasons that your password security may be weak.

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You throw away the darnedest things

Preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications, which have all your personal information. Here are the things in your home that could be spying on you.

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Check out ATMs before you use them

If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, walk away. That’s the skimmer I attached to capture your card information and PIN.

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Opt out

Why don’t more of you call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop banks from sending you preapproved credit offers? You’re making it way too easy for me.

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Get a credit card with your photo on it

I use your credit cards all the time, and I never get asked for ID. A helpful hint: I’d never use a credit card with a picture on it. Here's when to never use a credit card for payment.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest