Confidence trick

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

We live in a digital age where all sorts of personal information is stored on our cell phones, computers, and even in the chips of our credit cards. This has opened us up to the possibility of a security breach… and, in turn, identity theft.

identity theft

Over the years, the frequency of identity theft and fraud complaints has continued to increase, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. It’s important to be informed as to what identity theft actually is and how you can protect yourself. That way, you can prevent this growing crime from happening to you.

Before we discuss ways to protect yourself from identity theft, let’s take a look at how it can happen in the first place.

How Your Identity Can Be Stolen

There are a number of ways your identity can be stolen. With the prevalence of the internet and technology, identity thieves are always coming up with new ways to gain your information.


Think of all the pieces of technology you own that are connected to the internet: your smartphone, your tablet, your computer, and your TV, just to name a few. Hackers can find ways to get into those devices and install malicious software that steals your information. For example, keystroke-logging software records what you type on your computer and can pick up any personal information you enter. This may mean giving a thief access to your credit card or Social Security numbers.

Hackers don’t only target individuals; they also target large organizations. The retail giant, Target, was hacked in 2013, exposing many of their customers’ names and credit card numbers.


Phishing is the act of sending fraudulent emails to people. The sender claims to be from a reputable company, often playing on fears in order to get the receiver’s personal information.

Two common phishing emails include a “bank” asking you to verify your account and an “email provider” claiming you need to change your password (often claiming that they believe your account has been compromised, and that this password update is a security measure). Email providers have picked up on this scam, thankfully. Gmail will display an alert above an email it believes may be phishing. They may not pick up on each instance, though, so it’s smart to check the sender’s actual email address, avoid clicking links in emails of which you are unsure, and never sending your personal information in a response.

Identity thieves target people by phone and text message, as well. The terms for those acts are “vishing” and “smishing” respectively.

Dumpster diving

Dumpster diving is a technique identity thieves use to retrieve personal information from people’s trash. They search through dumpsters and trash bins looking for mail and other documents that may have personal information they can use. Some common mail pieces that identity thieves may…

Serial Killer to be Exhumed

H. H. Holmes was a serial killer in Chicago who was publicly hanged in 1896. You can read the story of his crimes in a previous article. Holmes, despite (or maybe because of) years of dismembering his victims, was deathly afraid of grave robbers, and requested that his casket be filled with concrete. And so it was. However, rumor has it that Holmes was not the man hanged that day.

Following the hanging, rumors spread far and wide that Holmes – a master con man and manipulator – had paid off prison guards to hang a cadaver or some unsuspecting fellow inmate in his place and…

Tricks to Score Discounts on Everything You Buy in Stores

Welcome to Wise Bread’s Best Money Tips Roundup! Today we found articles on tricks to get discounts on everything you buy in stores, tips for flying with pets, and how to move to a big city on a small budget.

Top 5 Articles

5 Tricks to Get Discounts on Everything You Buy in Stores — Use discounted gift cards that you bought online — just beware of scams. Only buy from reputable websites. [Money Talks News]

12 Tips For Flying With Pets — Book your ticket early so you can reserve your pet’s place on the plane before the limited spots fill up. [PopSugar Smart Living]

How to Move to a Big City on a Small Budget: 21 Tips — Consider selling your car if your new city has a well-established public transit system. [Cheapism]

How to Save for An Epic Backpacking Trip — Be open to working on the road to fund your…

How to Protect Yourself From 3 of the Biggest Online Scams Right Now

Cybercriminals are skilled at adapting to new technologies, incorporating new ideas, and twisting old scams to hook in as many people as they can.

But some scams remain pretty constant.

NatWest bank has published a list of the top scams people have most fallen victim to throughout 2016. These schemes continue into 2017, and surely beyond — fraud that’s universal and affects thousands of people worldwide.

What can you do about them? How can you protect yourself?

1. Advance Fee Fraud

This is a variation of the well-known “Goods Not Received” fraud, in which a seller asks for money before sending an item. Often, this happens on a separate platform, away from auction sites and third-party marketplaces (like those on Amazon).

Was thinking about putting a jacket on eBay. Took photos of it doing the Macerana.

It’s tempting because a seller will likely offer a discount for taking discussions away from official sites; after all, eBay takes a percentage of fees in order to keep itself running. EBay is the middle man, who thinks it deserves credit. And you might feel bitter about that. However, auction sites do offer a level of security that you simply don’t get in private negotiations.

Very simply, a seller asks for payment for a product or service before the item is shipped or service carried out. The result is that you lose money because what you’ve bought never turns up.

It’s no shock that, according to the U.K.’s NatWest bank, this was the second most common scam to affect its customers in 2016.

How can you protect yourself? Just refuse. It’s easy to say, but if you’re tempted by offers of a discount, it might be hard to do. You can see why real sellers would want payment in advance though.

wad of hundred dollar bills
Image Credits: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Know your rights. In most places, it’s against the law to receive payment for goods without dispatching them first — although there are always exceptions. This even applies to pre-orders, however. Sellers only offer discounted prices on pre-orders so they can factor in how many items they need to buy from their providers before actually submitting their order, not so they can withdraw money early.

If you are tempted to pay in advance, at the very least keep it to official platforms which offer precautionary methods — payment through PayPal, for instance, or using a credit card.

2. Spoof Payment Requests

This is actually a relatively new scam, at least in this form, with the number of cases rising considerably since 2014.

It involves a fraudster sending a spoof email to the accounts department…

Podcast Episode 150: The Prince of Nowhere

In 1821, Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor undertook one of the most brazen scams in history: He invented a fictional Central American republic and convinced hundreds of his countrymen to invest in its development. Worse, he persuaded 250 people to set sail for this imagined utopia with dreams of starting a new life. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the disastrous results of MacGregor’s deceit.

We’ll also illuminate a hermit’s behavior and puzzle over Liechtenstein’s flag.


In 1878, a neurologist noted that French-Canadian lumberjacks tended to startle violently.

Each year on Valentine’s Day, someone secretly posts paper hearts in Montpelier, Vt.

Sources for our feature on Gregor MacGregor:

David Sinclair, Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was, 2003.

Matthew Brown, “Inca, Sailor, Soldier, King: Gregor MacGregor and the Early Nineteenth-Century Caribbean,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 24:1 (January 2005), 44-70.

T. Frederick Davis, “MacGregor’s Invasion of Florida, 1817,” Florida Historical Society Quarterly 7:1 (July 1928), 2-71.

Emily Beaulieu, Gary W. Cox, and Sebastian Saiegh, “Sovereign Debt and Regime Type: Reconsidering the Democratic Advantage,” International Organization 66:4 (Fall 2012), 709-738.

R.A. Humphreys, “Presidential Address: Anglo-American Rivalries in Central…