NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Another Method for Identity Thieves

Another Method for Identity Thieves

            Another way for you to lose your personal financial info has been added to the arsenal of identity thieves. Known as “pretexting”, this method is related to “phishing” but has a few unique differences.

            Pretexting is the act of stealing someone's personal information under false pretenses. For example, someone might call, pretending to be from a bank or government agency, in order to steal someone's personal data (e.g., bank account number or Social Security number). Pretexters then use or sell this information, which is used to commit an identity theft crime such as stealing assets from accounts or making fraudulent purchases.

            There are four major ways that pretexters gain unauthorized information:
1. Appeals to emotions by a "sob story" of why they need access,
2. Charm and chatty talk, weaving their questions carefully into the dialogue,
3.Deflection and distraction, jumping from issue to issue to confound and confuse, and
4. Starting off the conversation with anger and bluster to catch people off guard and allow them to lose control of the conversation.

            Some pretexting methods are immature and glaring while others are subtle and sophisticated. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of the mechanics of pretexting and to always verify the identity of callers who request personal information. When in doubt, ask callers to make their request in writing. At this point, many pretexters will hang up because they know you have not fallen for their line.

            Phishing is similar in that its purpose is to obtain personal information for the purpose of committing identity theft. Victims are sent an e-mail that appears to come from a reputable source and are asked to provide personal data to "verify their account number" or some similar purpose.

            With both pretexting and phishing, a major red flag is any request to "verify" personal information. Legitimate businesses and government agencies have all the data they need already and simply do not make these types of requests. 



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