Officers getting more help in fight against ID theft

August 7, 2012 4:02:28 PM PDT
Identity theft remains one of the biggest crimes in the country, and every day it seems that scammers are finding new ways to rip off people.

But police are learning some of those new tricks, and how to stop the scammers.

After meeting with experts on cyber crime and ID theft, some officers jokingly said they were ready to get rid of their own credit cards and computers.

It does not take much for an identity thief to get their hands on credit card numbers. In fact, in some cases by manipulating a business' web site all the credit cards used to make purchases can be accessed with ease.

"I think the biggest thing that surprises people is that technical abilities do not factor into this at all. If you are a criminal, you do not have to be technical these days," Internet security expert Levi Gundert said.

Gundert is a former Secret Service agent who now teaches law enforcement about the emerging threats from cyber criminals.

Hacking business databases is popular because credit card numbers can be sold among ID thieves using a vast underground internet that police say is being used much like the real internet.

"It is really where thieves use this whole network of people underground, just trading information like you or I would via email or a simple search on a search engine," said Paige Hanson with Lifelock.

Hanson says the biggest seller on the underground internet is something called the total package.

"You have your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name and things like passport number, driver's license number; those things are worth more than just a credit card number that might go for 10 to 20 bucks," Hanson said.

Another form of ID theft gaining in popularity is filing fraudulent income tax returns using Social Security numbers of the deceased or the very young.

"The guys that we have working in that particular area, that is what they are seeing a lot of and just the credit card theft," said Barton Stephson with Harris Co. Precinct 1.

One frustrating thing for victims of ID theft is that law enforcement does not have the resources to track down all of these cases. It is hoped by sharing the information among different agencies that if a pattern develops, local police can act on it.


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