Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Portrait of an Identity Thief 335

Ant writes to tell us that the New York Times has a closer look and an interview with an identity theft addict. From the article: "As far back as 2002, Mr. Sharma began picking the locks on consumer credit lines using a computer, the Internet and a deep understanding of online commerce, Internet security and simple human nature, obtained through years of trading insights with like-minded thieves in online forums. And he deployed the now-common rods and reels of data theft -- e-mail solicitations and phony Web sites -- that fleece the unwitting."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Portrait of an Identity Thief

Comments Filter:
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:31PM (#15658050) Journal
    The reason most people don't do it is because they're honest and want to help out the human race instead of being a drain on society.
  • Stupid Criminal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by locokamil (850008) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:43PM (#15658068) Homepage
    Can anyone say... script kiddie?

    The guy is clearly dumb as a rock. Who the hell takes a stolen credit card, buys stuff with it, and then has the stuff delivered to his doorstep???!!? I don't know jack about stealing identities, but this guy's MO is just plain stoopid.

    Trust the mainstream media to make him sound like some kind of twisted, tortured genius.
  • Addict, My Foot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PavementPizza (907876) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:47PM (#15658073)
    What's this "identity theft addict" balonium? Do you call bank robbers "bank robbing addicts"? All bad behavior is not addiction. The guy is a lowlife crook who found an easy way to make money and kept coming back to it, plain and simple.
  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:51PM (#15658086)
    The reason most people don't do it is because they're honest and want to help out the human race instead of being a drain on society.

    I think of myself as an honest person, but a desire to retain my freedom has also kept me from straying into a life of crime. And whether or not a need to be honest is universal I don't know, but I suspect the deterrent of prison is enough to keep most people straight. Lots of us have the skills and opportunities to commit some fairly lucrative crimes, though we choose not to, for whichever reason.

  • Re:Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsartist (550317) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:52PM (#15658087) Homepage
    Yeah, I got a laugh out of it. But it's kind of depressing to think about, and all too common - too many people would rather blame the tool (in this case a computer) than admit that their spouse/child/dog/whatever has done something wrong. It's sad to think that this woman might truly believe that a machine somehow corrupted her poor innocent husband and turned him to a live of evil.
  • No Remorse??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by innocence18 (897646) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:00PM (#15658103)

    Did anyone else find this guys total lack of remorse in his actions a little...well...wrong!

    Not to mention this quote

    Mr. Sharma said, "because by then things have changed so much that it will be kind of hard for me to just go back in there and do everything."

    which implies that if it wasn't hard to get back in to he might consider it.

    What an ass!

  • by Korin43 (881732) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:05PM (#15658117) Homepage
    Considering how much money could be made through illegal means and how easily, morals are a much more important deterrent than the police. The police are the back up plan ;)
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:08PM (#15658122)
    Most criminals are dumb, thats why.

    He may not be robbing liquor stores but what he is doing is till fairly petty crime, it doesn't take much intelligence to do what he does.

    Thats probably the reason why you see so many people getting caught for this stuff, any geek knows the dangers of using a stolen credit card and ways to avoid getting caught, but I'm sure most of them are too busy posting on slashdot to bother.
  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <[ten.eulbamorhc] [ta] [trebor]> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:17PM (#15658141)
    I know... what a joke... an 'identify theft addict'. What, is stealing someone's identity this year's new black/bipolar? It's not a fucking mental illness.
  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:19PM (#15658145) Homepage Journal
    Fraud |= theft. In plain English, fraud does not equal theft.

    It's the same as the copyright argument. You cannot steal someone's identity. You can use it frauduantly. You can pose as someone you are not. You can give false witness. But identity fraud ISN'T!
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:23PM (#15658153) Homepage

    ...is with the absence of any sense of responsibility for the consequences.

    "It's an addiction, no doubt about that," said Mr. Sharma

  • by penix1 (722987) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:41PM (#15658189) Homepage
    Sure, on the credit card side you are right. On the online banking side you are wrong. The attention identity theft has received and will continue to receive when it gets worse will only cause people to not do anything involving money online. The more it happens, the less likely people will be to trust ANY site....

    B.
  • Re:Addict, My Foot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mad_Rain (674268) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:46PM (#15658199) Journal
    What's this "identity theft addict" balonium? Do you call bank robbers "bank robbing addicts"? All bad behavior is not addiction. The guy is a lowlife crook who found an easy way to make money and kept coming back to it, plain and simple.

    According to one of the investigators, ""We were surprised at how forthcoming he was," Mr. Ruh said. "He was very proud of his accomplishments."

    Looking back at some of Mr. Sharma's other comments in the article, I began to check off a number of traits that may or may not be evident: Glib and superficial charm; Grandiose sense of self-worth; Need for stimulation; Pathological lying; Conning and manipulativeness; Lack of remorse or guilt; Shallow affect; Callousness and lack of empathy; Parasitic lifestyle; Poor behavioral controls; Promiscuous sexual behavior; Early behavior problems; Lack of realistic, long-term goals; Impulsivity; Irresponsibility; Failure to accept responsibility for own actions; Many short-term marital relationships; Juvenile delinquency; Revocation of conditional release; Criminal versatility.

    Those traits make up a common psychopath [psychopath-research.com].
  • what invariably happens when ordinary citizens are left with only their own morals to keep them honest - and it ain't pretty.

    True. They tend to form governments to get themselves organised, and it all goes downhill from there.

  • by Pink Tinkletini (978889) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:10PM (#15658252) Homepage
    No, most criminals who get caught are dumb. You don't hear about the smart ones--they don't get caught.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:11PM (#15658254) Homepage Journal
    There probably are bank robbers who are addicted to what they do. The concept of "addiction" is just a model for understanding destructive behavior. It's not an attempt to excuse it. In fact, the opposite is true: people who are fighting addiction, and the people who help them (often addicts themselves) will tell you that the worst thing you can do for an addict is overlook his or her misdeeds.
  • by humankind (704050) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:15PM (#15658261) Journal
    Stories like this really irk me, and show how the industry wants to make the notion of identity theft much scarier than it really is. This is an example of an "identity thief?" This moron used stolen credit cards and shipped the crap to his parents' house where he lived. He's an idiot. Other people with common sense wouldn't do stupid shit like what he was doing. There's no skill involved in what he did. Any waiter or someone who handles credit cards on a daily basis could do the same thing, but they don't because they're not idiots like this guy.

    In the end, anybody he ripped off probably didn't have to pay, so it was the merchants that got screwed if anybody, and this is becoming harder and harder to pull off.

    If there's one thing this article does point out, it's that if the feds really want to stop identity theft damages, they'd shut down Western Union. That money transfer service pretty much solely exists now to play a party to scams of this nature.
  • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:16PM (#15658263)
    Well, let us consider what an identity is, then. Say someone came to your home, took your face, robbed you of your fingerprints, and any other identifying marks on your person. Then they take some clothes typically worn by you. Then, they take your cards and do things in your name. Even the people who see your 'face' at the store see that your perpatrator is you. They do viscious things in your name.

    Now, we all know that is pretty far fetched. But taking identifying *information* about you and doing things with that is not that much different. My SS#, my CC#, my PINs, etc. identify who I am in the absence of me being able to be there in person, so yes, it is identity theft.
  • Wrong - NOT THEFT! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SonicSpike (242293) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:35PM (#15658303) Homepage Journal
    Merriam Websters defines theft as: "the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it"

    When you use someone else's identity in a fraudulent manner, the original person STILL HAS THEIR IDENTITY!!! It is NOT THEFT, because you have not taken anything from them, they are deprived of nothing (except maybe some abstract type of sovereign individualism). But you are using their identity, and so are they!

    I think the fundamental issue here is that information, once in the open, logically belongs to no one nor can it really be 'possessed'.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:40PM (#15658317)
    It is interesting how religious groups always claim the moral high ground, even though the whole operation is a scam, that plays on simple people's feelings of insecurity and then rip them off for the benefit of the church masters.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:41PM (#15658321) Homepage

    Everything is a mental illness.

    If it is a mental illness, that means two things. It's not your fault (hint: it is), and it's a condition (hint: thus insurance must pay). No one in America has problems. Those would be their fault and they would have to pay a shrink to talk about them. But if you make it an illness...

    What was that one that was "discovered" last month? Intermittent Explosive Disorder, aka "a really short temper."

  • Re:No Remorse??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:59PM (#15658345) Journal
    The man is trying to set goals for himself. "If I can just make it a year or two without doing it" kinda stuff.

    It's like a druggie rationalizing "If I don't score for a year or two, by then things will have changed so much that it will be kind of hard for me to just go back out there and buy drugs again."

    What that statement really reveals is that he hasn't quite accepted that, if it really is an addictive behavior for him, he'll never be able to use a computer again and go near a chatroom or web forum without someone sitting at his shoulder monitoring what he does & where he goes.

  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:14PM (#15658370) Homepage Journal
    No drugs...

    I was talking about "theft of identity" not "using an identity in a fraudulent manner to commit theft". And you are right, fraud usually does lead to theft. But stealing someone's identity is near impossible.

    And both theft and fraud are criminal and should be treated as such.
  • by Nutria (679911) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:39PM (#15658404)
    the list would be very long.

    Any time you've got lots of older boys & young men without a disciplining influence, there will be trouble.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:01AM (#15658468)
    On the whole, we seem to be slowly moving from a "govern thyself" to a "If no-ones watching, why not?" frame of mind.

    I wonder if this is almost being encouraged by the powers that be as it fosters a feeling that it's ok for them to be watching because I no longer expect the others around me to be governing their own behavior...


    IMO, this devolution stems from a set of interrelated and feedback-reinforcing factors, some of which are
  • by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin...wick@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:43AM (#15658604)
    What was that one that was "discovered" last month? Intermittent Explosive Disorder, aka "a really short temper."

    What about this is not a mental disorder? Society says you are not supposed to have a short temper, and typically having a short temper is not something that a person typically chooses.

    I would postulate that given any person, there exists something you can do that will push them too far - something that will make them uncontrollably angry. For some it could be as simple as punching them in the face, or taunting them rudely for a while. For others it may take more. In either case, becoming angry is not a choice that the person is making - they may choose to try and suppress the emotion, but the human mind has only a very finite capability for handling aggression (as it is part of a very necessary fight-or-flight aggression system).

    I was once injured on purpose in gym class back in high school (it was somewhat minor, but extremely painful), and I can still remember the incredible adrenaline rush and rage that followed - I was barely able to contain it (even thinking about it 8 years later affects me strongly), and if the person who had caused the injury had done anything more, such as taunting me, I would no longer have been able to restrain myself (likely resulting in significant injury to that jerk, as the human body can abuse itself temporarily to gain signifcant strength during an adrenaline rush). I, for one, do not think this makes me a bad person - it's something that mammals evolved a long time ago (and man extensively since becoming intensely social creatures). There does exist a point at which the rational mind simply cannot override it.

    Back to mental illness... OED says that a mental illness is "a condition which causes serious abnormality in a person's thinking or behaviour." Some people simply have too short of a fuse - not because they felt like being an asshole, but because of a combination of genetic/environmental factors. It is probably good for these people to learn more about anger management to stretch their fuse a bit, but it is also probably wise for others to avoid provoking them. It's possible even that things that typically aren't a big deal to most people may be significant provokation for someone who has a serious temper issue - this makes it difficult for them to function well in society, and is thus a serious abnormality. There might not be a pill that makes it magically go away, but it doesn't make it any less serious of an issue.

    Of course that does not mean that all people who think they have IED actually have it, or even if IED has been properly defined... mental health is a field which is still poorly understood on the whole, and sometimes wanders away from the realm of scientific fact, however if being diagnosed with a problem helps people seek treatment (and yes, mental health is a legitimate use of insurance money... it doesn't matter whether you have a cure for cancer or whatnot if a person's just going to kill themselves anyways due to a chemical imbalance).

    I'm all for personal responsibility for the choices people make, but I do not think this is one of them. And for a rather small set of the population, it can be a socially crippling problem.
  • by bsartist (550317) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:06AM (#15658653) Homepage
    Could you name a few examples?
    First, I want to point out that it's very rare for someone to be in a situation where they have absolutely no concern for the consequences of their actions. Statistics say that here in the US, about 90% of the population describes themselves as spiritual. Most religions have some notion of an afterlife of pain or punishment, or karmic balance, or some such - i.e. consequences. And virtually anyplace you go in the world you'll find some sort of organized police force.

    What's left to look at are those who are in a position of power and influence, and either aren't religious or believe that God is on their side - i.e. people who have either absolutely no concern with the consequences of their actions (in this world or the next) or believe those consequences will be positive in nature. People like Josef Stalin, Jim Jones, and Saddam Hussein.

    Also, any parent will tell you the importance of teaching children about right vs. wrong. Have you ever really thought about what that says about our inborn tendencies? Why would that lesson need to be taught, if we weren't essentially amoral by nature? Further, look at how that lesson is taught. Do we teach our children to avoid being bad simply because it's bad? Or do we teach them that being bad has consequences?

    What it essentially comes down to is a question of belief. The question of whether people are inherently good or evil has been debated forever, with no conclusive answer to it in sight. I have my beliefs on the matter, but I recognize those for what they are - belief, not knowledge. If you believe differently, I won't tell you that you're wrong, because I can't prove that. But neither can you prove that my belief is wrong.
  • by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:23AM (#15658689) Homepage Journal
    On the whole, we seem to be slowly moving from a "govern thyself" to a "If no-ones watching, why not?" frame of mind.


    I think the main reason for that is the vast array of laws that are simply to serve corporations, not the people. Nobody's going to argue that it shouldn't be illegal to kill somebody, or break into his house, rape his wife and walk out with his TV. But with laws like the DMCA and various other corporate welfare schemes, people going to jail for weed, how can any man have respect for what's law, rather than simply live by their own ideas of what's right, and simply try to avoid being caught when those two systems aren't in harmony?
  • by JavaRob (28971) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:10AM (#15658788) Homepage Journal
    Most religions have some notion of an afterlife of pain or punishment, or karmic balance, or some such - i.e. consequences.
    More importantly, doing "bad" things tends to have much more immediate consequences. Most immoral things are "bad" because you are harming someone else. Someone who will, in all likelihood, not be very happy about it, and will try to:
    1) stop you from doing it again and/or
    2) harm you in return: perhaps physically, or (for example) telling everyone what you did harms you socially.

    Of course, if you don't get caught and aren't suspected, you don't need to worry about that directly. But we're social animals; we have some instincts and passed-on skills (empathy, conscience, etc.) to help us live in cooperative groups.

    Also, any parent will tell you the importance of teaching children about right vs. wrong. Have you ever really thought about what that says about our inborn tendencies? Why would that lesson need to be taught, if we weren't essentially amoral by nature?
    That lesson needs to be taught, perhaps, because we're essentially *stupid* by nature. We've evolved into a species that passes on essential knowledge to our offspring via teaching (because it works a lot better than only passing on slowly-evolved instincts!). If you raise kids without passing on the essentials (including how to interact with others), you're sending them out into the world as cripples, and they're going to screw up a lot and be miserable. That's not their "natural state" -- normally, this knowledge would have been passed on. In the natural human state, the parent teaches the child.

    Questions like "are we essentially amoral or moral" aren't really answerable just because they don't match up well with the real situation. Morality is the "best practices" we've figured out over time: how to live and cooperate with other people with a minimum of frustration and fighting. A kid might figure out some of that stuff on his own ("damn, I punch just one girl and now nobody wants to talk to me..."), just like he might figure out a hammer is for hitting things with... but without teaching, he's not going to master it any more than he'd master driving a car out into traffic if he found one sitting in the garage one day.

    Further, look at how that lesson is taught. Do we teach our children to avoid being bad simply because it's bad? Or do we teach them that being bad has consequences?
    If you teach your kid that he'll get punished when he grabs Billy's toy, he learns that *you* don't want him to grab toys. If you teach him to observe that Billy is sad when his toy is stolen, and Billy might be his friend if they share toys instead, and it feels good to have a friend... well, you're teaching him how to act even when you're not around, for starters. You're also giving him skills he can use in many other situations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:22AM (#15658812)

    "What's left to look at are those who are in a position of power and influence, and either aren't religious or believe that God is on their side - i.e. people who have either absolutely no concern with the consequences of their actions (in this world or the next) or believe those consequences will be positive in nature. People like Josef Stalin, Jim Jones, and Saddam Hussein."

    Ah, the classic "all atheists are evil, because they do not believe in god" argument. Don't you see anything wrong with it? Stalin etc. are no more representative for atheists than Hitler was for the christians, because they are not only individuals but also in a position of power and we all know that if someone is successful in politics it is because of a lack of morals and a lot of lying.

    If you consider the common man, you see that being religious means being able to call on justification by religion whenever you wish. Some do it, some don't, but the possibility is there, a possibility atheists do not have, so they always have to justify themselves in front of themselves - if you do it, you will find it very difficult to behave unethically, if you don't, you are working in politics or marketing.

    Also: If someone believes he only has this life instead of believing that he will have an after- or next life in which he is rewarded for what he perceives to be good and punished for what he perceives to be evil, don't you prefer the atheist who has to deal with the real world to the religious people who believe that belief makes right?

    Of course, I technically can't support my point that atheists are more ethical than religious people, so let's agree that both are people and therefore some of them are more and some less ethical in their behaviour.

    (Originally, I was going to use the argument "there are proportionally more religious people in prisons in the US" - however, there are also more blacks in prison, because they are mistreated [no real chance in life, thus committing crime; automatically assumed guilty out of the belief, that they are subhuman], which also leads them to be more religious to find an "explaination" for their misery, thus skewing the statistics on religious people in prisons.)

    "Also, any parent will tell you the importance of teaching children about right vs. wrong. Have you ever really thought about what that says about our inborn tendencies? Why would that lesson need to be taught, if we weren't essentially amoral by nature? Further, look at how that lesson is taught. Do we teach our children to avoid being bad simply because it's bad? Or do we teach them that being bad has consequences?"

    If you are what is perceived "bad" in your culture, you are shunned by your peers and thus have a difficult life, lacking the support of others, often even receiving open hostility. This is a consequence and you don't need an afterlife for it.

  • by oaklybonn (600250) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:35AM (#15658847)
    I am just so un-hip - whos this supposed to be?
  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <[ten.eulbamorhc] [ta] [trebor]> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:32AM (#15659091)
    Isn't it? If the small slap on the wrist I keep getting is my punishment for a very large reward, then it could just as easily be a perfectly rational cost-benefit/risk-reward decision.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:46AM (#15659226) Journal
    True. Any first-year law student can tell you that laws are created to keep the engines of commerce running, if not smoothly, then at least profitably. Justice doesn't enter into it, except in politicians' speaches.
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:50AM (#15659241) Homepage
    And for every looter there's about 50 honest people who are not looting.

    You can't prove anything about human nature by using the extremes like Stalin and looters in a city.. you have to look at the whole - and in general we do tend to act for the good of society (which is a good evolutionary trait btw.).
  • Re:ADDICT? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by a55mnky (602203) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @07:26AM (#15659457)
    I concur 100%. This guy is a thief, plain and simple. For him to refer to the temptation to turn 300 dollars into thousands as a relapse is a horrible insult to the folks that have ascended above true addiction.
  • by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @07:50AM (#15659514) Homepage Journal
    Many secular (and protestant) charities support Catholic charities.

    It doesn't mean there's a hidden agenda. It merely reflects the fact that catholic charities and churches can be found in many places where it would be too expensive, dangerous, or impractical to set up another office.

    If the purpose is the same, and someone else already has the infrastructure in place, it doesn't make much sense to spend money building a duplicate of that infrastructure.
  • Re:come again? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 955301 (209856) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @08:11AM (#15659571) Journal
    That's just it. Atheists don't make a connection between gods and charity, so yes, these are atheist charities in the sense that they are the ones atheists give to. Although I despise United Way as nothing more than another church by the way companies and football players push it - their overhead is ridiculous. Oxfam gets my money.

    The mistake you're making is that you think you have to advertise your charitible giving. That's almost entirely a religious evangelistic behavior, stuffing propoganda in the thanksgiving dinner boxes when giving them out.

  • by NynexNinja (379583) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @08:45AM (#15659683)
    There was an interesting quote:
    "Shiva Sharma was probably one of the first, and he was certainly one of the first to get caught," said Diane M. Peress, a former Queens County prosecutor who handled all three of Mr. Sharma's cases and who is now the chief of economic crimes with the Nassau County district attorney's office.
    This guy is from New York. What about New York's Masters Of Deception (MOD) group in the 1980's? I would say they were probably one of the first. Its pretty naive to make such statements that in 2006, this guy is "one of the first". He is 22 years old. I know guys that are in their late 30's early 40's that were doing computer based identity theft back in their teens and early 20's.
  • by boingo82 (932244) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @10:06AM (#15660117) Homepage
    What's your point? I'm atheist and work side-by-side with Christians and other religions too. Somehow, I'm still atheist.
  • by boingo82 (932244) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @10:09AM (#15660137) Homepage
    Or could it be because the "powers-that-be" themselves operate on the same policy?

There's no future in time travel.

Working...