How do scammers get your personal information? BBB explains

Posted at 9:18 AM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 11:18:11-05

Calls and emails from scammers are common now, which leaves many of us wondering, how did they get my information? Better Business Bureau's Rebecca Barr explains how these con artists are doing it.

"One popular way is through data breaches. So, if you know you are part of a data breach, you can expect to receive a call from a scammer. Oftentimes they’ll pretend to be from the retailer, your bank, or your credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem. Unfortunately, they use the information they get to convince you they are the real deal," Barr said.

If you haven't been involved in a data breach, there are still other ways scammers can gain access to your information. Many public records are available at the federal, state, county and city levels, including census data, property information, criminal records, bankruptcies and tax liens.

"Private companies can pull together all this information on you and sell it to anyone, and it’s 100 percent legal. It's very frustrating, but that's why we have to be skeptical because scamming people is big business in the world," Barr said.

To stay safe, BBB wants you to think of your personal information like money, value and protect it.

"Be careful what sites you visit and be sure you are on a legitimate site before entering personal information. Think of the information you are putting out on social media, whether it’s your birthday, your address, or even things you like that can all be used to target you. Also, when you do answer a scam call, those on the other end are listening for clues of how to lure you in. They are trying to determine what age group you fall in, whether you have kids, pets, or live in the city, anything they can use to target you. We advise you to just hang up, otherwise they’ll keep calling," Barr said.

For more resources to protect your personal information, visit