Computer Crime Research Center

Watch Out For Online ID Theft

It's a jungle out there on the Internet: Your online identity can be stolen.

Linn's Stamp News writer/editor Rachel Supinger was sitting at her desk one morning recently when she got a call: Was she really selling 15 laptop computers on eBay?

"No, I've never sold anything like that," she told's Lloyd de Vries. Supinger writes about and collects stamps.

"I was very frightened at first, because I realized that they had not only gotten into my eBay account but they had also gotten into my personal e-mail account," she said.

"It could have been much, much worse. They had access to any number of links that could have damaged me financially."

She was using the same password for other online services and, "because my name was included in the auction, it could have damaged my professional reputation."

The crook likely wasn't planning on delivering the computers, but on sticking Supinger and her customers for thousands of dollars.

"I was charged listing fees by eBay, and also my name, my real name, was included in the auction listing. At the time that I discovered the auction listing, the total amount involved was more than $25,000."

Supinger had been trying to build up her reputation on eBay that is, increase her feedback rating.

"Fortunately, one of the people who bid on the auction checked out my auction history and noticed that this type of listing wasn't like anything that I had done before," she told

The man looked Supinger up using Google, and called her at Linn's. Both he and Supinger then contacted the other bidders in "her" Dutch auction (an auction with more than one of the items available).

It took most of a week to straighten out her account. The hacker had not only pirated her eBay ID, but also had re-directed her e-mail elsewhere, so when the online auction service tried to give her a new password for her account, it went to the hacker, not Supinger.

Her advice is to check your accounts regularly.

"If you are a frequent buyer and only an occasional seller, make sure you keep an eye on your seller tab, and check for any unauthorized listings," she said. "Also, change your password frequently."


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