What is Identity Theft? How Hackers can Steal Your ID? How They Use it? How to Protect & Examples...


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In today’s modern society, the internet is a very educational and productive tool in order to become knowledgeable and stay well connected. Without technology, some individuals cannot function throughout their day. Many people use it for business purposes while others use technology in order to communicate on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Despite the beneficial uses, predators often abuse its powers. This tool puts consumers at risk for identity theft through scamming, phishing and even hacking. Therefore, consumers need to become more aware of protections against online hazards.

Cyber-crime is any illegal activity committed on the internet that uses a computer as its primary means of theft. Through identity theft, a predator without someone’s knowledge acquires a piece of their personal information such as their social security number, or even their bank account data and uses it to commit fraud. It is often difficult to catch cyber criminals because the internet makes it easier for people to do things anonymously and from any location on the globe. Predators use methods such as spam advertisements and even phony programs that have viruses. Many computers used in cyber attacks have actually been hacked and are being controlled by someone far away.

With identity theft, an individual’s confidential and personal information is stolen for the purpose of criminal use. In the CNN article, “Suspect in Celebrity Hacker Case”, the staff gives an account of how the criminal Christopher Chaney hacked into many celebrities’ online accounts and obtained nude pictures and other personal information stating that he was “addicted” and "didn’t know how to stop”.

How is Hacking used for Identity Theft?

‘Hackers’ – the colloquial classification of individuals undertaking exploitative, manipulative, unethical, and illegal behavior or actions with the expressed intention to intrude on computer systems belonging to other individuals – may vary in experience, classification, and tactical maneuvering. While certain individuals undertaking hacking measures in order to commit identity theft may do so in obtrusive and purposeful means, other hackers may act in clandestine, illicit, and secretive manners.
However, the victim of identity theft may be impressionable, impressionable, and oftentimes vulnerable individuals unfamiliar with computational systems.  Upon this unlawful access of a computer terminal belonging to the victim, the perpetrator may facilitate methodology that includes the commandeering or illicit removal of personal, private, or financial information.

What is an Online Predator?

Financial Online Predators typically target unsuspecting or impressionable victims commonly unfamiliar with the Internet or computational systems; Financial Online Predators may attempt to extract personal and private information from their victims in order to commit fraud, cause destruction, or facilitate means of extortion.
Upon unlawfully accessing data stored in its electronic form, a victim may be unaware that any or all information has been repossessed – and subsequently misused within an identity fraud operation. Hackers acting as online predators may target a wide range of electronic networks, including commercial and residential computer systems.

What happens to stolen credit card and social security numbers?

Much of the data stolen through computer hacking — including stolen credit card numbers and Social Security Numbers — will end up on a network of illegal trading sites where hackers and criminals from around the world will openly buy and sell large amounts of personal data for profit.

Stolen data networks have flourished in the open, with names like Network Terrorism Forum, Shadowcrew, Carderplanet, Dark Profits, and Mazafaka. The Shadowcrew network was believed to have more than 4,000 active members who made more than $5 million in less than two years trading 1.5 million stolen credit cards, before it was shut down.
I have your account money!

A typical credit card hacking transaction on one of these sites might take place as follows:

Stolen credit card numbers and other personal information are posted for sale, either to be purchased or used in a "joint venture."
In a joint venture, other network members will use stolen numbers to purchase goods and send them to a drop site for pick-up by other members. The goods are then sold and the proceeds shared amongst the participants.

New or unproven sellers on the credit card hacking network are often required to prove their credibility by participating in a number of dummy runs to test that both the seller and the stolen cards are genuine.

Some credit card hacking sites will also include a rating system, where members can post feedback on the quality of stolen credit card numbers and other information offered for sale by members. And many of these computer identity theft sites will accept requests for specific types of stolen information and will also sell complete phishing websites and email templates so that even absolute beginners can easily run phishing scams with little technical knowledge.

There has also been a shift in the professional computer hacking community, where hackers who used to do it for the thrill or the fame are now doing it for profit. In the words of one hacker, "In the old days of hacking it was a bit like base-jumping the Chrysler building. All you got was a slap on the wrist and front page headline."

But now hackers are facing serious jail time for even the smallest hack and they want to make hacking worth the risk. In most cases, all they do is find the opening, commit identity theft, and then sell the stolen credit card numbers; or just find the credit card hacking opportunity and sell that information for others to do the stealing.

Another source of computer identity theft involves former employees hacking into the networks and computers of their old job, using either insider knowledge or password accounts that were never cancelled. For example, the thief who stole 30,000 credit records from his employer in New York committed the crime over a two-year period after he left the company. The cost of his crime was estimated at more than $100 million.

He simply used his insider knowledge and a password that someone forgot to cancel. And if employees are disgruntled or angry after they leave the business, maybe because they were fired, they may justify their actions by convincing themselves it's "just compensation" for money they should have been paid.

Opportunist hackers also continue to be a problem. These are amateurs and professionals who spend hours a day running random port scans on the Internet looking for unprotected home computers. When they find one, they'll often just poke around inside the network or computer to see what's worth taking, and these days they know that any personal or customer information on that computer will be of value to someone somewhere.

And with nearly 4,000 hacking sites on the web, any petty criminal can now learn how to become an accomplished hacker free of charge, and possibly earn a much better living for a lot less risk. The criminals who used to lurk in doorways armed with a crowbar now lurk in front of laptops armed with a chai latte. These guys know that it's much easier to break into a business through the Internet to commit identity theft than through a skylight, and there's no chance of being bitten by the owner's Doberman.

Small businesses computer systems are especially vulnerable to identity theft, because they usually offer easy and unguarded access to things like customer credit card records and employee payroll files. Most small businesses don't use or keep access logs, so even if their information has been stolen, they probably won't even know it.

Ways to Hackers Could Use Your Steal Identity

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  • They can commit crimes in your name.

Here's a worst-case scenario: You get pulled over as part of a routine traffic stop, and you learn that there's a warrant out for your arrest for a crime you didn't commit. It can happen, if someone commits a crime and gives your name to the cops. Of course it's rare—but here's what the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse says you should do if it happens to you.

  • They can take over your social media accounts and impersonate you.

You've probably received a message from a friend that goes something like this: "I'm on vacation abroad, I lost my wallet, and now I can't get home. Will you wire me some money right away?" That's a scam called "social engineering." Identity thieves will hack your account, send messages to your friends, and try to ride on your reputation to trick people into sending you money. These scammers commonly use email and sometimes Facebook. To protect yourself, hone your BS radar—would your second cousin really ask you to wire money to Amsterdam without calling first?

  • They can open credit card accounts in your name.

When most people talk about identity theft, this is what they're really afraid of—not that someone will steal their credit card number, or their banking login, or the password to their email—but that someone will steal their Social Security number and start opening new accounts all over the place. If that happens, criminals can run up debt in your name, and you might not notice until your credit score tanks. So guard your Social Security number and check your free credit report three times a year for accounts you don't recognize.

  • Identity fraud for property purchase

A theft could use your identity and social security number to apply for a rental property or to purchase a house.

  • Using a child’s identity

Thefts target children’s identities because it often takes a lot of time until the crime is discovered, giving the theft plenty of time to use the child’s identity for opening up lines of credit as issuers do not authenticate the age of every applicant being processed. 

  • Sharing sensitive information on social media

As you update your family and friends with your daily whereabouts, criminals could also see this to learn your schedule. They can figure out when you tend to be away from your home to stage a break-in.

  • Using your debit card for online shopping

Don’t ever use your debit card to shop online because, unlike credit cards, you are not backed by a credit card company for any fraudulent charges. 

  • Illegally tapping into your computer

Any expert hacker can easily hack into your computer, especially if they have your IP address. Doing so will get them access to all of your personal documents, and if you use a password manager, they could find out all of your account login information as well.

6 Best Ways To Prevent You From Identity theft

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1. Create Strong Passwords and Update them Frequently. 

Remember to create a strong password, by avoiding common or easy-to-guess passwords. Common passwords often include a birth date, a pet’s name, a mother’s maiden name, or a person’s school or work. A safer password usually has some capital letters and at least one numeric or other non-alphabetical character. From time to time, it is important to change commonly used passwords.

2. Be Aware of What You Share. 

Between the increasing numbers of social networks, from Facebook to Twitter, and LinkedIn to Google+, a significant amount of personal information is being shared online that can be used to authenticate a person’s identity. Don’t share or post personal information online, such as your address, phone numbers, SSN, birth date, or birth place.

3. Keep Sensitive Personal and Financial Documents Secure.

Most people store personal and financial information on their computer. If you do, it’s important to protect your computer by installing a firewall, using anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keeping your browser updated, and securing your wireless network. If you are disposing of financial or tax documents, make sure you shred them, and if you are keeping hard copies for your records, store them in a safe location. Never carry around your Social Security card.

4. Protect Your Mobile Device. 

There are great apps available to help you bank, track your finances, and even do your taxes on your mobile phone. Make sure the apps that you download are from a reputable company and check the ratings and comments to be aware of what the app does and what information it may access on your mobile device. You should also secure your device with a strong password and use your phone’s auto-lock feature to protect personal information.

5. Check Your Credit Report. 

Your are entitled to one free credit report each year, which is compiled from information from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Take advantage of the free report in order to catch any errors. If any information has been compromised, set up a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus to put a security freeze on your files and information.

6. Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams. 

These email scams can come from a party claiming to be a trustworthy entity, (e.g., your bank) asking you to click on a link and confirm personal details including address, account numbers, or even your SSN. 

Trustworthy companies would never ask you to provide personal or sensitive information without first signing into your account behind a secure firewall. The IRS in particular will never communicate or request personal information via unsolicited email. Do not open or forward emails claiming to be from the IRS—forward them to phishing@irs.gov

Cases of Identity Theft


  • Dr. Gerald Barnes

Gerald Barnbaum lost his pharmacist license after committing Medicaid fraud. He stole the identity of Dr. Gerald Barnes and practiced medicine under his name. A type 1 diabetic died under his care. “Dr. Barnes” even worked as a staff physician for a center that gave exams to FBI agents. He’s currently serving hard time.

  • Mark Tufano

Mark Tufano got his joy ride by impersonating famed actors like Gary Oldman, in which he sent a video of himself as Gary Oldman portraying Andy Kaufman; it fooled the man who actually wanted Oldman to portray Kaufman in Man On The Moon. The real Gary Oldman caught wind of the scam and got it busted.

  • Marcelo Nascimento da Rocha

This drug smuggler impersonated Henrique Constantino, the brother of the CEO of the airline Gol Airlines, enjoying the high life but then getting busted after sleeping with a woman who actually knew the real Constantino.

  • Andrea Harris-Frazier

Margot Somerville lost her wallet on a trolley. Two years later she was arrested. Andrea Harris-Frazier had defrauded several banks—using Somerville’s identity—out of tens of thousands of dollars. The real crook was caught.

  • Brittany Ossenfort

Brittany Ossenfort got a new roommate, Michelle, who got a haircut just like Ossenfort’s. One day Ossenfort received a call at her office from the cops asking her to bail herself out of jail. “Michelle” had been hooking on the streets, posing as Ossenfort and was caught. Turns out “Michelle” was really Richard Lester Phillips, living as a woman.

  • Lara Love and David Jackson

This California couple one day began tapping into a neighbor’s wireless Internet router. This led to them raiding the neighbors’ personal data. Thirty victims were affected ultimately by the time this pair was busted.

  • Phillip Cummings

This fat cat worked for a software company and sold customers’ credit card reports to a Nigerian ID theft ring for $30 each—30,000 times.

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