There are multiple ways thieves can use your identity to commit crimes or financial fraud. The degree of identity theft is continually evolving with advancement in technology and as criminals look for new innovative ways to exploit personal information.

Your best defense starts with understanding the threat and the ways in which you could be attacked. Following are the most common approaches identity thieves have been known to take to steal your personal information.

Credit/ Debit Card Theft

Owning a credit or debit card puts you at a greater risk of identity theft. Scammers can use your cards to make fraudulent transactions. This can get more serious if they gain access to your personal information and open bank accounts or take out loans in your name.

[Related: How to Dispute a Fraudulent Credit Card Charge]

Mail Theft

Mail theft is when criminals directly target your mailbox to steal bank statements, credit card bills and other personal documents that may be used to steal your identity.

Dumpster Diving

This implicates fishing for sensitive personal identifiable information in someone’s trash such as bank statements, utility and credit card bills or other financially sensitive paperwork.

Unsecured Websites and Networks

Using your credit cards over unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and on untrustworthy websites makes it easier for cyber criminals to access your information including your card details, bank account information and login credentials.

Phishing Schemes and Spam Attacks

Phishing is a theft scheme where thieves pretending to be genuine financial institutions or government organizations ask for your bank account details, passwords or other personal identifiable information. They can do this over email, phone, social networks or SMS.

Internet and Wi-Fi Hacking

Hacking is one of the most technologically sophisticated ways of identity theft where offenders hack into your computer or smartphones through malwares and other malicious technology in order to retrieve personal information.

[Related: Investors beware: How to spot Ponzi schemes & investment scams]

Preventing Identity Theft

It is possible to reduce the likelihood of being a target of identity theft by taking certain precautions. Below is our list of ways to avoid getting your identity stolen.

Shield your Email with Encryptions

When sending confidential information over email, make sure to protect it with an end-to-end encryption. This allows only the intended recipient to view the message and prevents hackers from intercepting and reading your private communications.

Opt for a Two-Factor Authentication on Financial Accounts

A two-level authentication on financial accounts requires you to provide another layer of authentication in addition to your password. It is essential for building a secure information protection system.

Monitor your Credit Report Every Year

It is important to periodically review your credit report online through Al Etihad Credit Bureau, a UAE federal government organization, and scan it for information you do not recognize.

[Related: Now access your credit report anytime, anywhere]

Destroy Redundant Digital Information

Mere deletion of digital information does not mean destruction. Make sure to format, overwrite or degauss digital drives, laptops and smartphones before discarding them.

Shred Sensitive Documents

Make it a habit to regularly shred bank statements, bills, applications or any document with your personal information on it before tossing it into the trash or recycling.

Watch Out for Shoulder-Surfers

Criminals sometimes attempt to get close enough to watch as you enter your PIN or password into a machine. They may even set up cameras to record your actions. To prevent this from happening, be aware of your surroundings and make sure no one is around when accessing accounts that require you to enter passwords in public.