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A New Form of Identity Theft: Account Takeover

Identity Theft Through Account Takeover

mouse hovering over security button on computer screenAccount takeover is a form of financial identity theft that takes place in the digital world. Your online accounts whether that be your phone account, bank account or anything that you can access online and digitally, is at risk of account takeover fraud. If you get alerts that your account has been accessed from an unfamiliar or device or location, your account has most likely been compromised. Beware of account takeover because if done successfully, fraudsters have the ability to make withdrawals from your bank, make purchases with your credit card information, and even sometimes get into other accounts based on the information of the account they had gotten into.

How Account Takeover Occurs

Account takeover begins with someone gaining access to your personally identifiable information (which can be found by online hacking, stealing your mail, or even looking through your trash. Typically what happens is a third-party somehow gets a hold of your personally identifiable information and then uses that to find connections to personal accounts online. Once these identity thieves have gotten into your private accounts, they will usually go in and change contact information or hijack your phone and email. Rerouting communication is commonly done to lower any suspicions that companies have when trying to get a hold of the account holder. Account takeover is considered identity theft because once fraudsters change account information or are able to hijack your phone number or email, they have the ability to reduce the suspicions by acting like you.

Account Takeover Affects Consumers & Merchants

Any business that gives people the option to set up personal accounts or memberships puts not only their business at risk but their customers at risk as well. If a consumer’s account gets hacked into, that can then put a strain on customer relationships similar to what happens when data breaching occurs. This, in turn, can damage the brand image. So what are some steps that both consumers and merchants can take to prevent account takeover?


  • Use a mailbox with a lock to prevent unwanted people from getting a hold of your mail
  • Use document destruction companies like American Document Destruction to shred unwanted mail
    • This will reduce the easy access to obtaining personally identifiable information through mail or trash
  • Do not use the same combination of usernames and passwords for all of your accounts
    • Using different passwords for each account reduce the risk of multiple accounts being hacked
  • When creating passwords, come up with unique passwords that include a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters and change passwords often
  • Regularly check accounts connected to financial institutions
  • Use low-limit credit cards when online shopping in the off chance that it does get taken over
  • Do not save your card information in your browser or in your online shopping accounts
  • Set up two-factor authentication for when signing into your accounts
  • Do not use public wifi when accessing your financial accounts


  • Ask for the security code on the back of the card
    • Account takeover occurs usually because the third party does not have physical access to the card, making it difficult to provide the security code found on the back of the card.
  • Utilize in-house fraud prevention systems

American Document Destruction

All a criminal needs to bring them one step closer to successful account takeover is access to personally identifiable information. Although account takeover is done digitally, your information can still be accessed physically in your mail or trash. To reduce the chance of identity theft from occurring, the American Document Destruction company recommends that you shred any documents that could be traced back to you and your private information. We are a document shredding company in Reno, NV that provides both on-site and off-site document shredding services.

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