Monday, June 4, 2007

Identity Theft Crime Becoming Increasingly Complex

The crime of identity theft is becoming increasingly complex and increasingly more complicated as reported cases continue to rise. Recently, a woman was arrested for identity theft who had 12 cellular phone contracts fraudulently taken out using the identities of other people. In another reported case, an identity thief had gotten approved for a loan for $500,000 in the US.

Many banks and financial institutions are now creating departments that are tasked specifically with combating this type of crime. In most cases this is a division of the institution's anti-fraud department, but in other situations, the identity theft crime has become so prevalent that entire departments have been setup to develop methods to effectively fight it.

One anti-fraud company that has been created to fight fraud said that the number of multiple frauds reports by its customer had almost doubled since a year ago at this time. Once a person has been identified as a target, it appears that the information can be sold to other identity theft organizations, where the end result is that someone who is a victim of identity theft is actually a victim an average of 5-6 times, with some reported cases of more than two dozen fraudulent accounts opened.

A new type of high-tech crime is emerging. Using tiny microprocessors and very small computer chips, these are placed into the slot that accepts your debit card at ATM machines. They are small enough to where they do not prevent your debit card from being inserted into the machine. After you have entered your debit card and entered your PIN, it is reported that there is a problem with the machine and your card is returned, but what has happened in the meantime is that the thief has been given your account number and your PIN. It is extremely easy to make a debit card that has the exact same information on the magnetic stripe as the real card, and armed with that and your PIN, the thief can clean out your bank account quickly.

Like anything else, vigilance is necessary. Change your PIN often, especially if an ATM machine "malfunctions" or you suspect anything is amiss.

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