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Thursday, May 1, 2014

PC Speak: Abney Associates Tech Blog: Protecting your identity

Globally, cybercrime costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year and it comes in many forms, from computer hacking to phishing scams.

At the forefront of the fight is the U.S. Secret Service.       

While law enforcement is trying to stay on top of it, people are urged to do their part because in the end it's the consumers who will foot the bill.

A listing of stolen credit card numbers was found last month when authorities searched two homes on Quiet Way in Louisville.

"I'll be pretty conclusive -- it probably came from a recent data breech," said Paul Johnson with the U.S. Secret Service. "In this case we hit the mother lode."

According to Johnson, who heads up the Louisville Secret Service Office, the paperwork, an encoder, and a laptop -- everything needed to wreak havoc on someone's credit  -- were in a child's backpack.

"Stolen credit card numbers get re-encoded on a re-encoding device. You go to a legitimate store and you want to start buying as many of these as you can," Johnson said.

Johnson said thieves load gift cards, then sell them at pawn shops for 50 cents on the dollar.

In the case on Quiet Way, three men and a woman, described by authorities as Cuban and Mexican nationals were arrested. All pleaded not guilty

The Secret Service said it was just one of many identity theft scams.

For example, in March, Darnell Brown and Tierra Be'ans each received 42 months in federal prison for fraud and ID theft.

Phony Georgia driver's licenses were seized.

Police said surveillance video caught the couple buying merchandise at retailers using credit cards obtained by using phony IDs. The total loss to retailers in that case was more than $17,000.

"Criminals want your identity. Protect it with everything you have," Johnson said.

Sometimes victims can't see it coming.

It was recently discovered thieves installed skimmers at a New York City subway station to steal card numbers as tickets were being purchased.  A tiny camera captured people typing in personal identification numbers.

Johnson said everyone has to stay vigilant.

"The public should be checking their credit rating. They should go to one of the three credit reporting companies and is anyone taking out credit in their name that they are aware of," Johnson said.

Johnson said if you see a person in a self-service checkout line of a store loading up gift cards, report it to a clerk or police.

Clerks should also check to see if the numbers on the receipt match the last four numbers on the credit card.

Beware of phishing scams, either by the phone or in emails.

"It's important for individuals to take responsibility for himself. Your identity is something people want. Your credit card number is something people want. You have to protect yourself. Police cannot do that for you," Johnson said.


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