Identity Theft is Big Business; Credit Card Number May Fetch Hundreds of Dollars


Your credit-card data is out there, and criminals are buying and selling it in bulk, reports the Arizona Republic. Credit-card data theft is exploding, increasing 50 percent from 2005 to 2010, says the U.S. Department of Justice. Millions of card numbers are for sale. A single number might go for $10 to $50; a no-limit American Express card number for a consumer with good credit can sell for hundreds of dollars, said Monica Hamilton of the cybersecurity firm McAfee Inc. in Santa Clara, Ca.

Identity theft has become big business. The number of malicious programs written to steal your information has grown exponentially to an estimated 130 million from about 1 million in 2007, Hamilton said. The most successful identity thieves have learned that it's more lucrative to hack into businesses, wehre they can steal card numbers by the thousands oreven millions. Losses suffered by the businesses they hack can be staggering — an estimated $150 to $250 for each card number stolen. Those costs come in the form of legal settlements, fees for consultants hired to remove malware, and personnel hours spent notifying customers. The costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher retail prices and credit-card fees.

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