The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service again are warning people to beware of identity theft ploys, says the Indianapolis Star. A survey by Boston analysts Aberdeen Group asserts that identity theft losses were growing at 300 percent a year. “You have to protect your Social Security number as best as you can,” said Maj. Larry Turner of the Indiana State Police. Phishing–sending legitimate-appearing e-mails that try to trick people into giving out Social Security and credit card information–has grown so much that people have to assume that such mail is fake, said Scott Ksander, chief information security officer at Purdue University. This year, a wave of phishing messages was sent to Purdue credit union members using the same graphics as those used by the legitimate credit union.
Identity crime can be a low-risk, high-reward venture. Says Sgt. Rod Russell of the State Police, “We’ve traded convenience for security — that’s really a bad tradeoff.” Said Ksander: “People are more trusting online, and that’s the basis of these con games.” A common online scam: Two people set up a deal, and the scammer sends a check worth more than the purchase price. The apologetic scammer asks the victim to send back the excess payment, and the victim later learns that the original check is a fake or bounces. The victim loses the value of the bounced check, while the scammer gets enough cash to make the deal worthwhile.