By Samuetta Hill Drew
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) starts placing public service announcements on local radio stations about fraudulent activity being perpetrated on the general population by these slick technology thieves, it is time to pay attention. As the adage goes “forewarned is forearmed.”
As was stated in an earlier safety article this month, fraud begins with information about you. It can be easily and cheaply bought in an underground marketplace. Also stated in last week’s article, without names, email addresses, Social Security Numbers, passwords, credit card information and other personal data, a scammer cannot reach you or pretend to be you.
Data brokers have begun another illegal industry called data stealing. This data stealing industry is comprised of hackers who steal the information and sell it in bulk. Malicious code writers help the hackers gain access to your computer by infecting it with malware, and vendors buy the stolen data, repackage it, and sell it to the “end users,” the actual scammers.
I am sure some of you are thinking as you read this week’s safety article, “How much is your personal identifiable information (PII) worth to the scammer?” Let’s take a dive into this illegal marketplace.
James Lee, Chief Operating Officer, of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego said most people are under the impression that their social security number is their most valuable identifier. This is not true in this illegal marketplace. It is actually only worth about $2.
If a Social Security Number comes with a name and birth date, it is worth around $4 to $5 says Brian Krebs, cybersecurity expert who operates the website KrebOnSecurity.com. He said it equates to “the cost of a caramel macchiato.”
A personal credit card is worth more. It ranges from $25 to $35, said Lee. A hacked Facebook account can bring about $65. Think about the number of times a friend has contacted you and said they just received a “friend request” on Facebook from you, so immediately change your password because you have been hacked? A hacked Facebook account, along with a selfie photo with a U.S. driver’s license, goes for around $100.
So, who exactly is purchasing this information? Robert Villanueva, a retired U.S. Secret Service supervisor and now executive vice president of Q6Cyber in Hollywood, Florida says “there are hundreds of thousands of serious “threat actors” throughout the world.
He says this personal data is sold in digital “shops” on the dark web, as well as in more exclusive online “forums” accessible to more sophisticated cybercriminals.
Malware or malicious software is critical to their crimes. This critical nature is because if a computer is compromised with what’s called a keylogger, every letter a person types is revealed to the criminals, who can grab banking and email credentials to take over your accounts.
I encourage you to read this month’s entire safety series about “How to Fight Fraud.” It can be helpful to you in your quest of Keeping an Eye on Safety relative to your personal accounts in this technology and information age.