Identity Theft Thrives in Underground Chat Rooms

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Earlier posts have talked about underground chat rooms and websites that are frequented by thieves who sell your your personal information such as credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, birth dates, drivers license numbers and more. These bits of identifying information have a growing market and are bought and sold every day multiple times and to multiple people!  You may spend months or years trying to restore your good name, only to find out you and your information is still in an underground chat room -for sale!

Here's a portion of a story from the Baltimore Sun that details how easily your information is sold...with you none the wiser....

Black market in stealing your data is thriving

Baltimore Sun Report:  It wasn't clear what freaked Jerrell Ellerbe out more: when I read him his mother's maiden name, or the part when I told him his date of birth.

I'm guessing, though, that what disturbed him most was when I supplied his e-mail address and then read his complete Social Security number to him.

"Who are you again?" the 25-year-old data entry specialist said, clearly shaken. "Tell me who you are again?"

If I were someone with wicked intentions, I might have shaken him down for money. Or heck, not call him at all and just taken his data on a shopping spree.

But since I'm just your friendly neighborhood consumer columnist, I identified myself to him again and then explained why I was doing this: I wanted Ellerbe to know that his confidential information was floating out there on the World Wide Web on international chat rooms, message boards and Web sites that specialize in buying, selling and trading personal and financial data for criminal activities.

"I think I feel sick," said Ellerbe, who lives near Washington, D.C.

"The thought of it just turns my stomach. I had no idea my information, all that information, was out there. You can't even live a peaceful life anymore. There's always someone out there doing something crazy to you," he said

Little do many people such as Ellerbe know there is a thriving online black market in credit card account and PIN numbers, Social Security numbers and all manner of sensitive data for prices as little as $6 to $14 per victim. Every time a laptop goes missing, a corporation's security network is breached or a consumer gets duped into sharing passwords and financial data online, security and law enforcement experts say it's likely that information ends up in an online auction.

Security firm Symantec Corp. says it has seen a rise in the amount of data theft and data loss to the online black market. Dean Turner, director of Symantec's Global Intelligence Network, says, "If I had to guess, I'd say the losses could reach multimillions, if not billions, of dollars worldwide."

Steve Sakamoto-Wengel, the Maryland attorney general's consumer protection counsel for regulation, legislation and policy, agreed and said, "Remember the TJX Companies data breach last year? That was 47 million credit card numbers, maybe more, obtained by hackers just for those purposes.""A lot of these chat rooms and Web sites are international, based in other countries," Sakamoto-Wengel said. "It's hard to track who is behind them." Many consumers might not even realize their data have been compromised.


An earlier blog has a link to a video that shows just how much information is bought and sold in underground chat rooms.

See blog, video and tips on what you can do to protect yourself see earlier blog:  The Dateline Investigation...What should I do?


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Excellent site, keep up the good work

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