Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Creative Crimes of the Century

Criminals are increasingly creative in the methods by which they steal your identity, your money, and your life. They are usually several steps ahead of the average consumer. With how many of the following "creative" schemes are you familiar:

  • "Dumpster-diving"

  • "Mail theft"

  • "Shoulder-surfing"

  • "Phishing"

  • "Pharming"

  • "Skimming"

One of the positive things criminals have done, if I may say so, is add "creative" terms to our vocabulary. It always amaes me how intelligent and creative criminals can be! - Always one step ahead of their next victim, and ultimately, the law!

Whether they go after your mail, or go "dumpster-diving", or go "shoulder surfing", or "pharming", the end results are always the same: They become successful over another innocent victim!

Identity criminals are basically lazy people, in my opinion. Rather than getting a legitimate job, they would rather come up with "creative" schemes to part their victims from their personal information and their money.

One of the laziest ways they steal our identity, usually with our unwitting help, is through "Dumpster-diving". They simply sort through a person's trash for paper records such as credit card offers, bank statements, past paid bills, or anything that has your personal and financial information. Sometimes they can obtain a full profile of us from separate documents (such as church records, car repair reords, personal letters, medical reords, etc.) they find. And businesses as well as consumers fall victim to this one form of theft.

Mail theft is a low-tech method lazy criminals use to go after your personal and financial information. As with "dumpster-diving", it another easy way for criminals to get what they want with hardly any effort on their part, thanks to our unwitting help. For example, we leave a red falg on our mailbox to alert the mail carrier that there is out-going mail to be picked up. Or the mail carrier might do likewise to alert us to pick up our mail. Unfortunately, criminals love this because they tells them that the mailbox is ripe for the picking. A friend of mines calls this "The Low-Handing Fruit Scheme".

"Shoulder-surfing" is a low-tech, low-touch technique criminals use to get your information - and they boldly do so in public places usually right under our noses or over our shoulders. Typically they would watch or listen carefully as we key our credit card number or password into a keypad, or give the our account number over the telephone. And don't for a moment think that they have to be standing within earshot to steal your info. No!

Sophisticated shoulder surfers have been known to use bioculars, telescpes, or super-sensitive listening devices to steal your info from across the room or across the street. Sometimes they will record the sounds for accurate playback. Recording of the keypad sounds help them analyze those tones for replicated PIN numbers and passwords. Some criminals standing nearby may even use their camera-cellphone to record the numbers they see or take a picture over your shoulder.

"Phishing" also bears mentioning here. It is a scam in which you, the consumer, are tricked into entering your personal and financial information (account numbers, Social Scurity number, PIN number, password, etc.) via a bogus email and website form. The email looks as if it was sent from a company with whom most consumers may have an affiliation, such as AOL ®, PayPal ®, eBay ®, or a major bank or credit card company; but, in reality, are nothing more than identity theives hiding behind the email.

"Pharming" comes in several version. I'll just discuss one here. Similar to "Phishing", "Pharming" is an electronic scam in which criminals attempt to steal personal and financial information from numerous people simultaneously through something known as "Domain Spooling". Here the hackers take over a DNS server and redirect user information to a new website that they use to gather illegal information.

"Skimming" is a another growing identity theft scam where criminals quickly and temporarily steal a credit card and run it through a credit card reader known as a skimmer that has been reprogrammed to steal information off the card. Often, this takes place at a hectic retail store where a consumer might not notice that their credit card has been taken from them for a few moments.

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Behavior Management Expert and Maximizing Your Potential Mentor™ Etienne A. Gibbs is a life-observing author, engaging talk show host, humorous speaker, and successful trainer who teaches small business owners, managers, and employees how to speak, think, and perform in ways that will help them shine. In the end, they maximize their critical thinking, speaking, and management skills.

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