Computer Crime Research Center


Identity Theft Scams Persist: Shred Your Data

Date: November 22, 2004
By: Gary Waddell, Anchor

Nearly 10 million people in the United States were victims of some type of identity theft last year. It costs businesses and consumers just more than $47 billion dollars annually. The schemes and scams being used to lure victims are constantly changing.

If you've ever had your wallet or credit card number stolen than you know the type of chaos it creates in your life. On the average, identity theft victims spend close to 30 hours trying to undo the damage. But experts say most of the trouble can be avoided in the first place by always being a little suspicious.

Art Pepe said, "I didn't think scam right away. I thought, wow I hit the jackpot." But Art Pepe's potential pot of gold soon became nothing more than another attempt by an online scammer to steal money.

Art received an email from someone claiming to be an account officer from a reputable bank in Nigeria. The letter claims that there's been a tragic accident and a person with the same or similar last name was killed and has left millions behind -- with no known relatives.

Pepe said, "I thought, wow, and I replied back and than it kept going and going." But Art quickly realized something was wrong when the emails started asking for personal information and $800.

While Art Pepe was one of the fortunate ones who didn't fall for the scam, Special Agent Alan Peters with the FBI says cyber schemes continue to become more and more sophisticated.

"They're not savvy enough to the cons and the tricks that some of these perpetrators of fraud will try and put on some of these individuals. The elderly tend to consider that they are safe or secure by hiding behind the Internet screen and the fact is just the opposite," Agent Peters said.

According to Agent Peters, one of the most common and successful schemes on the Internet continues to be the phishing emails likes these. They appear to be from legitimate financial instiutions requesting additional bank account information from the Internet user. When in reality, it's a scammer trying to get you to give them credit card or bank account numbers.

But the schemes constantly change and evolve and one area that cyber crime agents are watching closely are Internet game rooms. While it may look like a simple game of hearts, there are conversations going on at the bottom of the screen and that's where the trouble can start.

Special Agent Alan Peters said, "For example, they may ask simple questions. 'Where are you from? What type of job do you have? How many times have you played the game? How well are you doing?' But they can actually start to follow you. They can track you and follow you along and get further into your personal life if you allow it to happen, establishing trust with you."

And just like telemarketing schemes, that trust can lead to sharing personal information that could help a scammer steal your identity. A lesson that Art Pepe learned before becoming a victim. "Unfortunately there's somebody out there that will fall for it, unfortunately."

According to the latest statistics from the Federal Trade Commission, Nevada has the second highest number of identity theft cases per capita in the country. Arizona ranks number one.

Experts believe our high tourism rate plays a major role in that ranking.

Add comment  Email to a Friend

Copyright © 2001-2013 Computer Crime Research Center
CCRC logo