Not everyone who can manipulate a computer is a hacker, and not every hacker is a computer expert. Hacker is an attitude of exploration. However, real hackers can often use their computer skills and knowledge to take advantage of other people. When hackers want to use their computer skills to steal from other people, they usually engage in some form of identity theft. When hackers want to use their computer skills to bombard people with advertisements for legitimate (and not-so-legitimate) products, they use spam.
Whatever the motivation may be, the end result of identity theft and spam is the same: Someone is hacking your life without your consent. Identity theft skyrocketed 81 percent in 2002. It was reported that 700,000 people were victims of identity theft in the United States that year, based on data released by the Federal Trade Commission. 1 Shockingly, that statistic gains frightening new relevance when compared to the 418,000 robberies committed in the United States in 2002 (as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program).
2 “The bulk of identity crimes are committed through decidedly old-fashioned means,” confirmed Gartner Group analyst Avivah Litan in a previous interview. “Information stolen in pre-existing relationships, pickpockets taking wallets and purses, mail interception where the thief opens financial mail, copies the information, and reseals the envelope all play a large part (in identity theft). ” 1. Federal Trade Commission, United States, 2002. 2. Uniform Crime Reporting Program,( Federal Bureau of Investigation), United States 2002.
The Internet adds a potentially easier method to abscond an individual’s personal information: online pick pocketing. As you’ll learn later in this chapter, there are numerous ways for crooks to obtain your vital information and ways for you to prevent it. Understanding Identity Theft Computers aren’t required to conduct identity theft, but they do make it easier and more convenient. In simple terms, identity theft involves masquerading as someone else so they get stuck paying your bills.
This can be as easy as a waiter copying down your credit card number when you pay your dinner bill and then using it to order expensive merchandise by mall or over the internet. On a more extreme level, identity theft could occur when someone uses your name, Social Security number, current address, and date of birth access your bank accounts, take out loans, and even to commit crimes that will be traced back to you. How Identity theft works
Relatively few people know you personally, so most people you do business with or otherwise meet in the course of your daily life rely on unique information to identify you, such as your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, zip code, and credit card number. For all intents and purposes, however, anyone who possesses the information can trick others into thinking that he or she is you. The identity thief needn’t have the skills to physically mimic your behavior, appearance, or manner of speaking to assume your identity.
3 3. Bott, Ed, Siechert, Carl and Stinson, Craig. Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out. Original from the University of Michigan. 2004, 168. Minimizing the threat of identity theft Anyone can become a victim of identity theft. Just ask Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Tiger Woods. But when identity thieves target ordinary people, it’s almost always because they have the opportunity, not because they look the time to target you specifically.
Identity thieves usually get your personal information one of three ways: First, hacking into corporate computers that store your personal information, such as the database kept by banks and credit card companies. Hackers can also target any large company that stores its employee records on a computer. Second, Dumpster diving in your trash or the trash of a company where you work or do business. Third, Phishing and other social engineering tricks to get your personal data.