It might sound like an urban legend designed to scare you, but still you have to ask the question: “Can my identity be stolen with only my name and address?”
“The short answer is no,” says Eva Casey Velasquez, president/CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “However, your name and address could be used as a gateway to steal your identity.”
In this article, learn four ways that gate might be opened.
How your name and address can lead to identity theft
Identity thieves are always on the lookout for personally identifiable information, or PII, that they can use to start piecing together a person’s financial world. This can include details like Social Security number, birthdate, or name and address.
Depending on what identity thieves find, they can do things like open new credit accounts, steal from existing accounts or commit other crimes using a fake identity.
An identity thief may try and use your name and address in several different scenarios. Here are four of them.
1. Using a database to find more information
A thief could plug your name and address into a publicly searchable database to see what other pieces of information can be found.
One website charges as little as a dollar for reports that include someone’s phone numbers, marriage and divorce records, education records, employment history, and more.
These pieces of PII could potentially be used to open new financial accounts. It’s important to protect yourself against this type of identity theft. Check your credit report regularly to look for new accounts you don’t recognize, and scan your billing statements line by line to look for suspicious charges.
2. Using ‘name’ and ‘address’ as security answers
When you call a customer service number about your account, often the first question they’ll ask is “Who am I speaking with?” They may also ask you to verify your address or another question to verify your identity.
It’s part courtesy, part security to see if it’s really you calling.
If a thief has these answers, he may be able to slip through and get more details about your financial accounts. Checking your credit report for suspicious activity may help you if a thief has accessed your accounts or opened new ones.
3. Redirecting your mail
There are ways to commit identity theft offline.
With a name and address, a thief can change your address via U.S. Postal Service and redirect mail to their address of choice, Velasquez says. With access to your financial mail, the thief may intercept bank statements and credit card offers or bills, then order new checks and credit cards.
This is a form of mail theft.
Some good news: The postal service has a few security steps in place to trip up this type of fraud. You can also help thwart this type of theft by opting in to paperless billing for all your financial accounts, and opting out of unsolicited credit card offers. If a thief tries to reroute your mail, there might not be much to find.
4. Sending fake offers via mail
Another attempt at theft offline includes “phishing,” which can be done via good old-fashioned snail mail. That’s when a fake entity sends you mail cleverly disguised as a legitimate institution requesting money or financial information.
These pieces of mail may include fake bills, change-in-service notifications or lottery-win notices.
If you get a piece of unsolicited mail that looks suspicious, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
In nearly any identity-theft scenario, a thief must have more than your name and address to commit fraud. So these details could be a gateway into your financial world, but it’s not your last line of defense.