How Information is Obtained and Used
How do perpetrators acquire identifying information belonging to victims? It may be helpful to consider the many ways that the information is obtained:
Purses, wallets containing credit cards, driver’s license, Social Security card.
Mail: perpetrators complete a false change-of-address form, obtaining credit information, convenience checks, etc., from the victim’s mail or the victim’s financial institution.
Trash/Dumpster Diving: Identifying information from discarded documents, e.g., credit card statements.
|Breaking and Entering, Burglary||
Financial records and other personal information about accounts.
Stolen computers have personal information stored inside.
Posing as a landlord, potential employer, etc., the perpetrator gains access to a credit report.
Obtaining information through friends or employers of the victim (e.g., gaining access to HR files).
Contacting the victim or their financial institution under a pretext and asking for, and gaining, the personal information.
Observing the victim while he/she uses personal information and making a copy of it.
Using an electronic device to lift data from a credit or debit card and “swiping” the information for transfer to a counterfeit card.
|Purchasing||Perpetrators may purchase information, even legally, and use or sell it for identity crime.|
|Gaining Unauthorized Electronic Access||Exploiting computer network vulnerabilities to obtain unauthorized access (steal) sensitive personal information. Vulnerabilities include things such as weak passwords, poorly protected wireless transmissions, personal information that is not adequately segmented from the rest of a network or the Internet, or not adequately logging access to networks or monitoring logs.|
Once obtained, how is the information likely to be used?
Here are some of the most common ways that perpetrators use stolen information:
|Personal Information: Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number||
This is sufficient to open a new credit card account, which could be mailed to a false address, and therefore used until the victim becomes aware of it. Other uses include: opening a new bank account and writing bad checks, obtaining loans, signing leases, and filing for bankruptcy in the victim’s name (to avoid paying debts incurred, or to avoid eviction from house/apartment. obtained in the victim’s name), mortgage fraud, medical and/or other insurance fraud, etc. Also used for criminal concealment, fraudulent obtaining of employment or government benefits as well as committing tax fraud. Many of these crimes can include creating altered or forged driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, passports and other identity documents.
|Credit Card Numbers||
Making purchases, sometimes including calling the credit company and changing the mailing address to delay the victim’s knowledge of bad charges.
Requesting “convenience checks” which can be written for cash against a credit card account. Again, often after changing the mailing address or having access to the victim’s mailbox.
Committing balance transfer fraud - using the victim’s account to do a balance transfer to an account opened and controlled by the defendant, then using the cash feature of the card to withdraw funds. This method allows a $5,000 credit limit card to suffer a $100,000 loss.
|Counterfeited debit and/or credit cards||
Enables the perpetrator to deplete all accounts.