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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."
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Portrait of an Identity Thief

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  • Re:Yeah... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:53PM (#15658211) Homepage
    Yes, but everything offers temptation. Even church offers temptation for some people. Church is the ultimate temptation. Do what we say, and you'll go to heaven when you die, and live in happiness for eternity. If someone goes to church everyday, do we say they are addicted, and send them to rehab? All things have the power to do evil. Doing something that hurts others is wrong. Doing something that detracts from your own well being is bad. But saying that a tool is "the devil" because it can be used for evil is just stupid. The computer has helped tons more people then it has caused harm to. Are we supposed to outlaw cameras because they can be use for spying, or child porn?
  • What to do if.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BobSutan ( 467781 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:20PM (#15658273)
    As I posted in another related story, if you ever suspect (or know) you've been the victim of Identity Theft, here's what to do:

    Contact the credit agency of your choice to put a fraud watch on your file. The agency you contact will notify the other two for you.

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

    Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

    Its also a good idea to call 1-888-5OPTOUT to prevent banks, insurance companies, and those pesky fakers (remember the ChoicePoint fiasco) from getting ahold of your credit report. All 3 agencies use that same number for the opt out process. That should significantly cut down on those pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail that can be stolen and used in your name as well.

    And for the Active Duty members in the crowd that happen to be TDY, you should consider getting an Active Duty military alert placed in your name in addition to a fraud alert. You can never be too safe when it comes to preventing ID theft. However, no matter what you do there's still no guarantee you won't fall victim to the random oddity that can occur (such as a bartender swiping your card # and going nuts on Amazon).

    For more info on how to minimize the risks of ID theft, or how to recover from it, check out the FTC's website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft
  • TFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by smvp6459 ( 896580 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:03AM (#15658351)
    TFA in case anyone else is having trouble with access:

    July 4, 2006
    Stolen Lives
    Identity Thief Finds Easy Money Hard to Resist

    By the time of Shiva Brent Sharma's third arrest for identity theft, at the age of 20, he had taken in well over $150,000 in cash and merchandise in his brief career. After a certain point, investigators stopped counting.

    The biggest money was coming in at the end, postal inspectors said, after Mr. Sharma had figured out how to buy access to stolen credit card accounts online, change the cardholder information and reliably wire money to himself -- sometimes using false identities for which he had created pristine driver's licenses.

    But Mr. Sharma, now 22, says he never really kept track of his earnings.

    "I don't know how much I made altogether, but the most I ever made in a quick period was like $20,000 in a day and a half or something," he said, sitting in the empty meeting hall at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., where he is serving a two- to four-year term. "Working like three hours today, three hours tomorrow -- $20,000."

    And once he knew what he was doing, it was all too easy.

    "It's an addiction, no doubt about that," said Mr. Sharma, who inflected his words with the sort of street cadence adopted by smart kids trying to be cool. "I get scared that when I get out, I might have a problem and relapse because it would be so easy to take $300 and turn it into several thousand."

    That ease accounts for the sizable ranks of identity-fraud victims, whose acquaintance with the crime often begins with unexplained credit card charges, a drained bank account or worse. The victims' tales have become alarmingly familiar, but usually lack a protagonist -- the perpetrator. Mr. Sharma's account of his own exploits provides the missing piece: an insight into both the tools and the motivation of a persistent thief.

    Identity theft can, of course, have its origins in a pilfered wallet or an emptied mailbox. But for computer-savvy thieves like Mr. Sharma, the Internet has forged new conduits for the crime, both as a means of stealing identity and account information and as the place to use it.

    The Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have invested millions of dollars in monitoring Internet sites where thousands of users from around the world congregate to swap tips about identity theft and to buy and sell personal data. Mr. Sharma frequented such sites from their earliest days, and the techniques he learned there have become textbook-variety scams.

    "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. "But the kinds of methods that he used are being used all the time."

    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.

    Much of this unfolded from the basement of a middle-class family home in Richmond Hill, Queens, at the hands of a high school student with a knack for problem solving and an inability, even after multiple arrests, to resist the challenge of making a scheme pay off.

    That is what worries Mr. Sharma's wife, Damaris, 21, who has no time for the Internet as she raises the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Bellamarie.

    "I hate computers," she said. "I think they're the devil."

    A Thief's Tool Kit

    Mr. Sharma is soft-spoken, but he does not shrink from the spotlight. He gained fleeting attention after his first arrest, as the first person
  • Re:What to do if.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by locotx ( 559059 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:07AM (#15658354)
    This is great and all, but I found that most of the time the credit agencies don't help too much. I've been a victim. Big whoop, you have a "Credit Fraud Victim" tag on your credit reports. That still doesn't matter, a company can still grant that credit request. You can have "Do not open any more credit accounts for this person" on your credit report and guess what, that will not stop companies from granting it. Credit reporting companies are there to report the bad things and protect the companies that are granting credit and even then they are merely reporting a potential risk. They do not help the consumer. REPEAT. They do not help the consumer. I've had a "Credit Fraud Victim" label attached to all my credit reports (all 3 companies) and I have a case number with the FTC. And STILL, I get credit accounts opened up. Nothing says frustration than doing everything that has been asked only to find out a $13,000.00 loan has been granted without you knowing and now it's in collection. Then when you contact the company that granted the loan, they treat you as if you are a theft and have to prove you didn't request the loan. Where as my thought process is "Wait a second you sorry sack, you granted a loan and you didn't check and see if it was me and now you are saying that I am trying to trick you out of paying this, you must be nuts." It's a very frustrating battle. This is something that happens a lot . .it's the "elephant in the room no one is talking about". . . but until it happens to you . .you will not know the frustration of having your identity stolen (or used fradulently).
  • Re:So what again... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:12AM (#15658499) Journal
    So what again are the names of those Atheist charities?

    United Way, The Smith Family, Medecin Sans Frontieres, Oxfam, Starlight foundation, etc etc. If you weren't just trolling, have a look here http://www.secularhumanism.org/ [secularhumanism.org] for an insight into compassion in secular society.

  • Re:So what again... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:06PM (#15660579)

    I'm gonna be modded Troll for this, but here we go anyhow.

    United way is not a charity.

    Oh sure, they may be listed as one and have all the benefits, but they do not help people.

    Their function is to collect money and give it to real charities. They never, ever directly help people.

    On top of that, they don't give all that money to the charities. They use 8% of it for their paychecks and literature. (This number could be wrong. They apparently don't advertise it anymore as anyone with a brain can figure out that anything above 0% is BAD. They used to advertise that most charities use 15% of the income for administrative expenses, but UW only used 8%. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that's about 23% total, if you give to UW instead of directly to the charity.)

    I'm not denying that UW has probably done some good somewhere. It just isn't nearly the sparkling ivory tower they want you to beleive. Add in the insane pressure they put on businesses and employees to donate, even if they don't have money... It's just wrong.

    A prior co-worker of mine pledged quite a bit more money per month than she could afford because she felt she had to. She was almost in tears trying to figure out what she was going to do. It took me almost 30 minutes to convince her that she not only didn't have to give, but that she could go to the store manager and recind her pledge and nothing bad would happen to her. This was the worst I'd seen, but it wasn't the only instance of people giving money when they shouldn't be.

    That same company I worked for required the store manager to give a certain portion of his paycheck to UW. They were rich, greedy bastards and I didn't mind that, but the mindset is totally wrong. UW should never have such a stranglehold on a company that such a thing can be possible.

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