3 common ways criminals can steal your identity — and how to avoid them

According to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. consumers reported more than 1.1 million cases of identity theft in 2022, with credit card fraud, bank fraud, and loan or lease fraud being the leading types reported.

And in an effort to help consumers avoid falling victim to this often-costly type of crime, Arthur State Bank has published several past blog articles offering guidance on ways to avoid identity theft, including:


How to avoid identity theft carried out via 3 common tactics

In this blog article, we’ll take a deeper dive into a few of the common ways criminals can steal your sensitive personal information, along with how to protect your identity against them. Consider these three leading tactics criminals employ to gain access to your personal details and some ways you can combat them:


  • Data breaches: One of the top ways criminals can get their hands on your (and other consumers’) sensitive personal details — which can then be used to perpetuate identity theft — data breaches are largely outside of consumers’ control. These occur when hackers illegally gain access to the computer network of a company that is legitimately storing customers’ personal or financial details. Such breaches are typically blamed on the company whose network has been illegally accessed, and most businesses employ strict security and training measures to prevent them from happening. When they do occur, data breaches can lead to thousands or even millions of consumers’ personal data being compromised, depending on the size of the company and the pervasiveness of the data breach.
    What you can do to protect yourself: For consumers, data breaches can be among the most difficult means of identity theft to avoid. This is because, when we provide our personal and financial details to the companies we do business with, we must trust that these organizations will take all the necessary steps to protect our information. And while we may not be able to prevent such data breaches from taking place, we can take steps to raise our awareness of such breaches and minimize their impact on us when they do occur.
    One way to do this is to sign up for a credit monitoring-service such as Identity Guard, Experian IdentityWorks or Equifax’s ID Watchdog. By quickly providing you with alerts when there are changes to your credit profile (such as when new lines of credit are opened) and by monitoring the dark web for signs of theft or fraud associated with your identity, these services can make it easier to protect yourself against identity theft. Further, such services often provide helpful fraud-resolution services for members, along with insurance coverage that reimburses members for any ID theft-related losses they may suffer. Another way to protect yourself against the damage that data breaches can cause is to regularly review your credit reports for errors and unauthorized activity. As required by law, consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report once a year from each of the United States’ three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.


  • Dumpster diving: When consumers throw bills, financial statements, or other documents and records containing personal, work and/or financial details into the trash can or recycling bin, they could unwittingly be providing criminals with the information needed to steal their identities. This is because, by collecting these documents via a tactic known as “dumpster diving,” criminals can gather a range of sensitive information about their targets, such as their account numbers, phone lists, calendars and more. And by putting together the pieces needed to duplicate your personal profile — such as where you live, work, play and bank — these criminals can eventually gain access to your financial accounts, social media accounts and more. Or they can even use this information to open new accounts in your name without your knowledge.
    What you can do to protect yourself: To prevent potential criminals from accessing your personally identifiable information via dumpster diving, always shred any documents containing sensitive details with a cross-cut shredder before throwing them away or recycling them. This type of shredder will cut any paper documents run through them into pieces so tiny that they are nearly impossible to reassemble into a legible format, rendering them useless to any criminals who may get their hands on them. For consumers who don’t own a shredder, many communities offer local shred days, at which attendees can bring in documents for shredding (typically) free of charge. To find one in your area, keep an eye out for shred day announcements from your local municipalities, which often announce these in the local newspaper, on social media or on their websites. Also, to help reduce the risk of dumpster diving, try to keep your outside trash can and recycling container stored in a well-lit area that sees lots of traffic if possible. Criminals are less likely to dig through these containers if they’re likely to be noticed in the act.

  • Phishing: When engaging in phishing, criminals attempt to trick consumers into providing their personal or financial details by posing as a legitimate business or organization via sending fake emails or texts (also known as smishing), or via making deceptive phone calls to the targeted consumer. The details sought will typically include credit card information, banking information, account passwords or other personally identifiable information, and the criminals often employ fake websites to make their ploys more convincing. And consumers who provide these details are often unaware they’ve fallen victim to a scam until they start getting billed for products or services they never purchased, or receive payment requests for accounts they never opened.
    What you can do to protect yourself: To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, always be skeptical of requests for financial or personal information made via emails, texts and/or phone calls — especially when you didn’t initiate the communications. Legitimate businesses and organizations will almost never reach out and request such sensitive information via these means (and in addition, they should already have these details on file). If you receive an email or text directing you to a website, always be wary of the address you’re being led to, as it could be an imposter web address leading to a fake page that attempts to look official. Further, never download email or text attachments you’re unfamiliar with before first verifying that the sender is legitimate, as the attachment(s) could be infected with malware created to gather your personal information or damage your computing device. If you receive a phone call asking for sensitive personal information, let the caller know that you will call back. Then contact the business or organization by directly dialing the phone number listed on its official website, on its billing statement or in the phone book.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.