Saturday, June 06, 2009

ABC introduces "Card Cops" with alarming report of overseas ID theft

The Money section of ABC News and Nightline have an alarming report, June 3, “Thieves Snatch Billions in Credit Card Fraud: 'Nightline' Tracks Hackers in Underground Identity Theft chatrooms; How to Protect Yourself”.

The link is here. ABC tried an experiment and found that a fictitious credit card was siphoned in 15 minutes by crooks in Kiev.

The story mentions Dan Clements, of Card Cops, a company that tracks international identity theft, particularly in credit card numbers and bank account information. Sometimes accounts get set up in a person’s name that the person never knows about or gets bills for. Other times bank accounts are siphoned. Most of the activity is overseas, in Russia, or former Eastern European countries or Asia, mostly in poorer countries where youth have some indignation and gang-like incentive to steal and "prove themselves".

The story says that a lot of compromise happens with phishing of naïve Internet users, but a lot of “shoulder surfing” happens in retail establishments, involving dishonest (and perhaps underpaid) clerks.

The story recommends opening new cards with new account numbers rather than letting them renew automatically. They also recommend changing debit card pin numbers frequently.

Naïve users are more vulnerable than experienced people with Internet literacy. Other defenses include frequent checking of bank accounts and credit cards online, and frequent checking of credit reports. Does Internet activity make one a “target”, or is a moderate amount of “fame” a protection because the person becomes harder to impersonate and not get caught. It’s hard to say.

Still, I think that we can build systems to stop this if only we have the will and invest the resources.

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