Much like the X files, "Your Information Is Out There". Identity theft relies on the fact that your information is out there, and that most people don't bother to check on their identity information regularly. There are lots of avenues for an identity thief to grab your private information.

The most common variety, and the lowest tech, and thus, the hardest one to crack, is physical theft. Someone can lift your purse or wallet, or go through your garbage can for old credit card offers, or even intercept your mortgage booklet, and get enough information to establish credit cards in your name.

While using your credit card has become safer, it's an arms race between the security provided by your bank and the attempts to break it by the thieves looking to make a fast buck. Try to make sure that your credit card never leaves your sight when you're eating out, or making a purchase. Always take your slips with you rather than tossing them out, and in general watch the physical accoutrements of a credit card sale.

When making credit card purchases over the phone, recall that phone lines can be tapped, trivially. This is one of the cases where Voice over IP helps – it's harder to reconstruct pertinent information when it's all packetized.

Speaking of security over packetized information, most secure web sites really are more secure than doing a physical transaction with your physical card, provided you follow some basic rules of the road. First, never do banking information on a publicly accessible computer, or in a public WiFi hotspot. There are several ways for someone with a laptop to hijack a WiFi hotspot, like at Starbucks, and pretend to be their secure connection point. All it takes is one keystroke logger, and you're hosed.

On your own machine, run anti-spyware software regularly, and set it to deep scans. The number one cause of electronic identity theft comes from spyware networks harvesting credit card information. Similarly, beware of phishing attempts. Never follow a link to your bank, always type the URL into the browser directly.

The other phase of identity theft comes from correlating stolen identity information with public records. Having a credit card is less useful than having a credit card tied to a physical address where mail can be intercepted. Even better still is having a credit card tied to a social security number. Because of the way that Google will do reverse lookups on telephone numbers, it's possible to gather a lot more information in less time than ever before.

Even confidential information can be found online, or even bought from your employer, depending on local regulations. Even worse, there are now services that let you dig up information about nearly anyone with a minimal fee and minimal starting information. Most of these can be used in reverse lookup information to find out more about you than you thought was available. Even innocuous seeming information, like sporting club memberships, or club affiliations can give someone the "in" they need to do identity theft. Similarly, someone with access to credit or loan or school admission information can sell that data to other people, even medical information can be bought or sold.

With all this information floating around, it's remarkable that it hasn't become commoditized – in fact, it has become commoditized. Credit reporting and direct marketing companies will sell filtered versions of the data. Sometimes unscrupulous persons can buy multiple sets of filtered data and cross correlate them to find out about you, or use them indirectly to do you mischief. One of the more recent scams is setting up a corporate shell with a plausible need to get credit reports (such as a rental agency or car leasing service) and directly subscribe to the three credit bureaus.

Unfortunately, privacy legislation isn't keeping up – the outlook requires that you watch your credit report regularly, and immediately contest anything unusual.

Author's Bio: 

Leon Edward provides free information online on identity theft prevention, internet privacy and FREE Identity Theft Prevention Checklist plus top services at his website

Leon Edward also gives away a free guide with answers on Frequently Asked Questions about Child Predators Online at