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Identity theft keeps becoming more complex

Jun 10, 2013 Dave King

Identity theft keeps becoming more complex

Identity theft has become an epidemic in the United States and abroad, as more studies continue to indicate that the prevalence of data breaches and subsequent lost personal information is intensifying, showing no signs of easing any time soon. Businesses need to be the first line of defense against identity theft, as criminals often target firms to steal consumer or corporate information.

What's more, these criminals do not need much to steal a high volume of funds, illustrating the importance of having stringent ID verification policies in place, as well as the most progressive data security standards. Other factors that will decrease a firm's likelihood of experiencing an instance of identity theft include document retention policies and information governance protocols.

New tactics strike

The Dallas Morning News recently reported that officials in New York have uncovered an elaborate and advanced identity theft ring that was being run out of a Hotel Pennsylvania room by four suspects. The thieves used what are known as skimming devices, also called electronic encoders, which are planted in point-of-sale card readers.

When an unsuspecting victim swipes their card, the information - including a digitized copy of the magnetic strip - is sent to the remote location of the identity thieves. According to the news provider, the four suspects planted the devices at a Mesquite, Texas, gas station, and allegedly stole money from 400 people who made purchases at that store.

"A Manhattan hotel room was transformed into a veritable identity theft factory by the defendants charged in this case," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, explained, the Dallas Morning News noted. "None of the nearly 400 people who swiped their credit and ATM cards at a gas station in Mesquite, Texas, could have possibly fathomed that their stolen financial data would wind up a hotel room some 1,500 miles away in New York."

When law enforcement officials arrived at the hotel room, they described a high-tech operation that turned up $340,000 and 400 forged credit cards. The source noted that the investigation is ongoing, as officials still have a lot of questions, such as how the alleged criminals stole the credit card information in the first place.

While complex and extremely difficult to defend against, businesses should work to develop strategies that mitigate even the most advanced threats, such as this one. Checking all point-of-sale terminals for abnormalities and maintaining stringent oversight of all accounts receivable and payable transactions can deter these types of complex crimes.

Lost in the supermarket
CBS Chicago recently reported that federal law enforcement officials are beginning an investigation into a line of identity theft instances at a local market in a suburban town near Chicago. According to the news provider, this has quickly become a federal affair because some of the credit card information that was believed to be stolen from the supermarket in Illinois has been used in South Africa. As a result, officials believe that this might be part of an international hacking activity.

The source noted that law enforcement is requesting all victims, or suspected victims, to come forward as soon as possible to help officials gather all information related to the event. Local police department employees collected information from many of the victims and then passed the case off to the U.S. Secret Service.

CBS Chicago stated that the Secret Service has made some progress, while the supermarket, its insurance company and all of the victims have been cooperative thus far.

By maintaining stringent information governance protocols, using advanced data security software and overseeing all accounts payable and receivable, businesses can better avoid issues such as this one, which hurt reputations and incur losses.