Identity Theft: The 10 Most Common Methods Attackers Use

by | September 8, 2021 | Cybersecurity

Have you ever woken up to accounts you’ve never created, credit you’ve never applied for? Not to worry, you most likely didn’t travel to a parallel universe while you were sleeping. Instead, you’ve only become a victim of identity theft.

Identity theft is virtually when someone pretends to be you after stealing your personal information and using it against your knowledge or permission.

This kind of attack can be extremely damaging to you as an individual or your company, and attackers have a wide variety of routes to choose from when trying to purloin the info they need to impersonate you.

Identity theft is when someone pretends to be you after stealing your personal information and using it against your knowledge or permission.

Keep reading to discover the 10 most common techniques that hackers use to get a hold of your personal data.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a broad term that refers to whenever someone steals your personal information, such as your Social Security Number, and uses it to create accounts, apply for credit, get medical services, make a purchase or commit any other fraud that comes to mind in your name.

Given the nature and continuous expansion and evolution of technology and the Internet, your personal information is always on the line. To make matters even worse, if you don’t keep an eye on your credit file and all your accounts, you may not even notice you’ve been victimized until it’s too late and the damage is done.

The 10 Most Common Ways It Happens

Beware of these 10 hackers’ favorite identity theft strategies:

1. Data Breaches

A data breach occurs when an attacker gains unauthorized access to an organization’s confidential data. What cybercriminals look for is full names, Social Security Numbers, and credit card information.

According to Identity Theft Resource Center, 2018 saw 1,244 data breaches in the U.S., with over 446 records exposed.

2. Dark Web Marketplaces

The dark web is a haven for cybercriminals. It’s where your stolen information ends up in most cases. Hackers may choose to sell it to others who have nasty intentions.

The dark web is a network of websites that can’t be accessed with conventional browsers. Users who visit it use software to hide their identity and activity.

3. Unsafe Browsing

If you stick to official well-known sites, you’re in the clear for the most part. But if you enter personal information on an unsecured website, you could be actually handing it to a thief.

Depending on your browser, you may get warnings whenever you try to access a risky unsecured site.

4. Malware

Malware is the short form for ”malicious software” and sums up all programs or files designed to cause harm intentionally or to exploit devices, networks, or services. Attackers use it for crimes such as stealing sensitive data, monitoring users’ activity, compromising or deleting information from the device.

5. Mail Theft

Long before the days of the Internet, scammers were combing through the mail in hopes of finding documents that contained personal data they could use for financial gain.

So, be careful of the mail you throw away, as it can leave you vulnerable to old-school identity thieves. Also, remember to shred any documents that may contain your sensitive data.

6. Credit Card Theft

This is one of the least complicated forms of identity theft. Once hackers get access to your credit card information, they can use your money to make unauthorized purchases. This is when you end up asking yourself, “When did I buy this bouncy house?”

Credit theft happens through data breaches, physical theft, credit card skimmers, and online retail accounts where card details are stored.

7. Phishing Emails

Phishing is a type of cyberattack in which the attacker poses as a reputable entity or person, using diverse ways of online communication to distribute malicious links or attachments that can perform a variety of functions, but to one single end: stealing the victim’s data and money.

This form of online fraud uses subtle and cunning social engineering tricks that enable cybercriminals who push just the right psychological button to steal the victim’s sensitive data, which is far easier than breaking through a computer’s or a network’s security system.

In other words, a phisher impersonates a person or entity you trust, so they can steal your info and impersonate you.

8. Wi-Fi Hacking

Be aware that hackers might be “eavesdropping ” on your connection whenever you use your phone or computer on a public network, like in an airport, department store, or a coffee shop.

Attackers can easily intercept your precious credentials if you type them in when using this kind of network.

9. Mobile Phone Theft

Smartphones have become an almost natural extension of an individual. Thus, they hold a great deal of personal information waiting to be stolen. For example, if someone gets ahold of your phone, it could allow them to view the information stored in your apps, as well as your emails, text messages, notes, and everything else.

Consider securing your phone with a strong password, fingerprint scanning, if possible, and avoid storing your passwords in plain text anywhere on your phone.

10. Card Skimming

This technique requires hackers to use a skimming device that can easily be placed over a card reader at an ATM or a fuel pump without grabbing your eye.

The moment you swipe your card at a compromised machine, the skimmer intercepts the data from the card’s magnetic stripe and either stores it or sends it back to the hacker.

Cybercriminals use this information to make purchases.

Security Awareness Training With ATTACK Simulator

Identity theft can be extremely damaging to your business. Your employees are the most attractive and weakest targets, so you should seriously consider implementing security awareness training in your company.

Phishing emails are one of the most common routes hackers take to get to your employees. To objectively assess your company’s exposure and vulnerability to phishing attacks, we strongly advise you to use our free security awareness training trial.

Our realistic phishing simulations will expose your employees to life-like hands-on fake phishing attacks.

Choose ATTACK Simulator’s Security Awareness Training program to provide your employees with the necessary security knowledge and up-to-date security practices to keep your company safe from scammers.


People illustrations by Storyset

Web illustrations by Storyset

Money illustrations by Storyset

Online illustrations by Storyset

Feature image: Computer vector created by vectorjuice –

by Diana Panduru

Content writer for Attack Simulator. Passionate about all things writing and cybersecurity, and obsessed with driving. I sometimes indulge in pencil drawing, poetry, and cooking for fun.

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