Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common problem in the United Kingdom, as fraudsters discover more and more ways to get hold of the information which is required to steal someone’s identity.
Identity theft rarely involves the unauthorised taking of a victim’s personal possessions, however it does involve the perpetrator of the crime taking the victim’s personal information and then using this in an unauthorised way for their own personal gain.
So, if before the Internet era the most awful thing somebody could steal from a person was the wallet with some money, ID and another bunch of random stuff, now it is more damaging to steal one’s identity. This means personal information about cards, passwords and the ability of becoming somebody else in the online community.
Identity thieves can also use your identity when they commit other crimes, such as entering (or exiting) a country illegally, trafficking drugs, smuggling other substances, committing cyber crimes, laundering money and much more. In fact, they can use your identity to commit almost any crime imaginable in your name.
Some techniques that people use in identity theft are:
- Recovering personal data from dismissed or returned IT equipment and storage media including PCs, servers, PDAs, mobile phones, USB memory sticks and hard drives that have been disposed of carelessly at public dump sites, given away or sold on without having been properly sanitized
- Using public records about individual citizens, published in official registers such as electoral rolls
- Stealing bank or credit cards, identification cards, passports, authentication tokens
- Common-knowledge questioning schemes that offer account verification and compromise: “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”, “what was your first car model?”, or “What was your first pet’s name?”, etc.
- Using ‘contactless’ credit card readers to acquire data wirelessly from RFID-enabled passports
- Stealing personal information from computers using breaches in browser security or malware such as Trojan horse keystroke logging programs or other forms of spyware
- Hacking computer networks, systems and databases to obtain personal data, often in large quantities
- Using false pretences to trick individuals, customer service representatives and help desk workers into disclosing personal information and login details or changing user passwords/access rights (pretexting)
- Guessing Social Security numbers by using information found on Internet social networks such as Facebook or Twitter
- Low security/privacy protection on photos that are easily clickable and downloaded on social networking sites.
- Befriending strangers on social networks and taking advantage of their trust until private information is given.
Most of these problems are a result of low privacy settings on social media platforms and surfing websites that are not trustworthy.
By the time you realise that someone out there is buying things, obtaining a credit from a bank or committing crimes in your name, there is so little left to be done.
Protect your accounts! Better safe than sorry!