The economic state of the U.S., and of many families are in jeopardy. Bailouts to banks and automotive companies, the cost of living, decreased housing prices – but who would have thought that our identity could be worth less, and be sold and traded on the black market? So much for the stock market.
Do you know what your identity is worth? Do you know there are actually black market websites out there selling information about your identity? Four years ago the black market price for a complete identity ranged from $100.00-$150.00. But the economy is affecting not only our credit, but identity thieves’ ability to get credit as well. Identity thieves are now paying approximately $14.00 to $18.00 for each stolen identity. Even with this dramatic drop in prices, this crime remains a profitable one. Although the final figures are not in, identity thieves stole more than $49 billion from businesses and consumers in 2007.
But the state of the economy is not the only reason why black market prices are dropping for identities. Unfortunately there are other factors for this drop in “value.” These include: the theft and resale of identities has become such an efficient crime, that the supply has greatly increased; the state of the economy has made it harder to get credit and lastly, some consumers are becoming more savvy regarding protecting their identity, thus making it more difficult to get a complete identity and now thieves may have to settle for bits and pieces.
Once upon a time the black market of identity theft took place in back alleys, basements and warehouses. But with the efficiency of the internet and the wealth of information now available on line, this market as a whole new store front – the World Wide Web. Not only can identity thieves get information from the internet to sell, but they can store and buy it online too.
Chat rooms and cyber-criminal sites have been discovered by identity theft investigators about the local, state and federal level that sell: stolen credit card numbers, machines for making credit cards, scanners that pick up ATM card and pin numbers, and malicious software and viruses. This takes online shopping to a whole new level.
Andreas M. Antonopolous of Network World explains the success of the identity theft black market in shocking terms. “If the black market economy were to be floated on the stock market it would be valued at more than $5 billion. The only catch is that the black market for identity theft is growing at more than 60% year-on-year, whereas some of the leading security companies have lost value in the last year. Three years from now, the bad guys could be better capitalized than the entire security industry.”
The sites discovered by investigators are described as “carder” sites. In chat rooms carders brag, “I have bank accounts…discount if you buy in bulk.”
There are methods in place to try to find these criminals. Thanks to Secure Science Corp., a company that recovers stolen information found online an entire Hall of Shame, with more than 147,000 stolen credit card numbers available for sale during one month was discovered in 2006. This discover lead to no more “honor among thieves” as many of them turned on each other, providing information on the process and people involved in identity theft.
Identity thieves no longer use just one site to get their information from. Now they are collecting and packing stolen information from different sites and services. According to Alfred Huger of Symantec Security Response; “identity thieves are now collecting and packaging stolen data. These guys are going to the effort of data warehousing this stuff and will steal or get data from multiple sites,” Huger explains.
Did you know that once stolen your own credit card could be used to purchase even more information about you? One very popular method used is to purchase an account and complete searches on popular ancestry, reunion or even public record sites. Just your mother’s last name or one credit card or other important personal document can be used as a key card to open the doors to most luxurious “carder” sites available. As identity thieves’ methods become more efficient, and better hidden, there are more of them out there with even more efficient methods to collect information and profitable black markets to sell it in.
No doubt your identity is worth a great deal to you. The effort to regain your good credit standing can reach into the 30 hours or more and the monetary losses average in the thousands. Just think, if your identity is that valuable and important to you, how much more value does it have to an identity thief. When consider what steps to take, methods to use or services to purchase to protect your identity remember its worth, both to you and to those who wish to steal it and sell it on an identity theft black market.
More information on identity theft is available at: Is Your Child’s Identity Safe? , Is it REALLY MySpace? , and What You Need to Know About Credit Monitoring .