The Role of Organized Crime in Identity Theft

In days of old, organized crime was all about the muscle. It consisted of gambling, loan sharking, prostitution and drugs. While the stereotype of organized crime is still around today, organized crime leaders have learned that they can get the same results as they always had by using hackers to break into almost any database, access information from unknowing victims, and then use that information to set up new accounts.

Of course, they can also access and even take over existing accounts. Meanwhile, the victims remain unaware until they attempt to apply for credit or get notified by a financial institution.

What is a Cybercrime?

The term cybercrime generally refers to the electronic theft of any data, such as an individuals' personal information, state secrets, corporate information and more. Cybercrime came into mainstream awareness after several criminal hackers began breaking into the databases of well-known companies. The criminals had access to sensitive data and began using that data to commit espionage and identity theft.

Cybercrime is quite lucrative for those who practice it, and at this point, it is showing no sign of stopping. Over the past 10 years, cyber thieves have been focused on developing new and sophisticated methods of capitalizing on Internet users, and as of now, there is little danger that they will ever be caught.

Meanwhile, innocent consumers are increasingly confronted with more risk to their money and personal information with every year that passes.

What are the Most Infamous Cybercrimes?

There have been some quite infamous cybercrimes over the years. Here are some of the most notable:

  • The "I Love You" Worm Email Scam - In 2000, emailed with a subject line stating "I love you" proved to be irresistible, and millions of people opened them. When doing so, they were met with an email and attachment, which was supposedly a love letter. Upon opening the love letter, the victim's computer was infected with a virus, and in this case, it cost government agencies and companies an estimated $15 billion in damage.
  • The Mass MyDoom Infection - The MyDoom worm is a fast-moving pest that first came into systems in 2004. It also tops a list from McAfee as one of the most expensive in terms of monetary damage, which is estimated to be more than $38 billion. This worm also sent enough spam to email users that it slowed global Internet access by about 10 percent, and then reduced access to some websites by as much as 50 percent. This has cost billions in lost online sales and productivity.
  • The Conficker Worm - The Conficker worm hit computers in 2007, and it infected millions of machines. This worm went even further than the MyDoom and "I Love You" worms, and it allowed hackers to control the victim's computer remotely. This worm caused just over $9 billion in damage.

Why a Cybercriminal Will Target You

Most people don't understand why a cyber criminal would focus on them. Their goal, however, is to target anyone they can, take your name, date of birth, Social Security number, address and other information. Cyber criminals also look for credit card accounts, bank accounts or data that they can use to open up a new account or take over an existing account.

For about 75 years, Social Security numbers have become a national identifier.

The numbers first were used in the 1930s to track Social Security benefits, but these days, it is used for much more. You have to disclose your Social Security number with regularity, and it likely appears in hundreds, if not thousands, of records, files and databases. Plus, there is an untold number of people who have access to it. Anyone who can access your Social Security number can use it at a hospital, bank, to obtain credit or get a job, all in your name, which can have devastating results for you in the future.