By the time of Shiva Brent Sharma’s third arrest for identity theft, at 20, he had taken in well over $150,000 in cash and merchandise, says the New York Times in a profile of an identity thief. Sharma was arrested three times in three years. He figured out how to buy access to stolen credit card accounts online, change the cardholder information, and reliably wire money to himself – sometimes using false identities for which he had created pristine driver’s licenses.
“I don’t know how much I made altogether, but the most I ever made in a quick period was like $20,000 in a day and a half or something,” he said at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., where he is serving a two- to four-year term. “Working like three hours today, three hours tomorrow – $20,000.” He added: “It’s an addiction, no doubt about that. I get scared that when I get out, I might have a problem and relapse because it would be so easy to take $300 and turn it into several thousand.” That ease accounts for the sizable ranks of identity-fraud victims. The Times says that Sharma’s account of his own exploits provides an insight into the tools and the motivation of a persistent thief. Sharma used the now-common e-mail solicitations and phony Web sites that fleece the unwitting.