Who Steals Identities: Anyone, Sane or Not

There’s no limit to who will steal your identity and ruin your life.

It could be an immediate family member, a stranger in a foreign land and anyone and everyone in between. It could be someone who works for you, a person who dug into your trash, the server at your favorite restaurant and an employee at the medical clinic you go to.

The thieves who have some kind of personal connection to their victims typically choose such victims due to ease of access to their personal information.

Of course, strangers who steal also rely upon ease or opportunity.

The reasons for identity theft are pretty much a no-brainer: It’s a way to make money. This desire for money may be fueled by plain greed (wanting the finer things in life), drug addiction, or to pay off the thief’s debt or legal bills for their divorce or whatever, to get away with crimes done in the victim’s name, and perhaps in some cases, the crook is just plain mentally warped and steals an identity for kicks.

Identity thieves want certain key data to carry out their plan: credit card information, bank account information, home and business address, birthdates, and perhaps the most important of all, the Social Security Number.

Some thieves, perhaps sociopaths, use unsophisticated methods such as home break-ins and dumpster diving, while more organized professional criminals use clever technology to hack into databases or personal computers, or trick victims into giving up valuable information.

And the sophisticated crooks work super fast, too, capable of draining the victim’s savings or maxing out their credit card in only a matter of hours.

Let’s take a look at Albert Gonzalez, a prolific identity thief.

When he was 12, a virus took ahold of his computer, enthralling him. From learning how to safeguard his computer, he learned how to be a crook.

By 14 he was making online purchases with stolen account information. This kid had the purchases delivered to empty houses.

Eventually he hacked into NASA. At 22 Gonzalez was arrested at an ATM and began working for the good guys, but continued leading a cyber thief gang on the side. Ultimately he got 40 years in prison for hacking into TJ Max, OfficeMax, JCPenney and more.

Other cyber crimes occur via more traditional crime rings, even from prison cells, like one at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution. The inmate obtained Social Security Numbers and other crucial information from people with credit cards for department stores. He’d then contact the retailers to add more users to the accounts or open new accounts in the victims’ names. This ringmaster had eight accomplices.

Such an organized crime ring is composed of:

  • Kingpin, the imprisoned ringleader, scaring people on the outside into action.
  • Insiders. In the above case, store employees turned data over to the kingpin.
  • Mules. Common street thugs who use stolen accounts to buy expensive items in stores.
  • Store clerks. An accomplice at the checkout to ring up the mule’s purchase.
  • Fences. The purchased goods are sold by the fence.

    Seems it’s impossible to make yourself immune to these crime rings; everyone, in some shape, way or form, is at risk for identity theft. But that doesn’t mean that beefing up a line of defense won’t matter.

    Though certain things are beyond your control, like a worker at the office getting into your information and giving it to an accomplice, there are many other ways you can prevent identity theft.

    An ID theft monitoring service will certainly help. So will not clicking on links inside e-mails.