Identity theft is a widespread and growing problem nationwide and one version of the fraud type that is becoming particularly popular among criminals involves the buying and selling of stolen credit card information.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that cases of identity theft in general have increased some 50 percent between 2005 and 2010 alone, and are only likely to become more common as criminals use the latest technology to gain access to consumers’ sensitive personal and financial information, according to a report from the Arizona Republic. One aspect of this involves online marketplaces — like any other Web store — that specialize in the purchase and sale of credit card numbers stolen from unsuspecting consumers. The credit card numbers typically sell for between $10 and $50 a piece, but can grow far more expensive depending upon the quality of the cardholder’s credit.
Using the information acquired when purchasing access to a stolen account, criminals can rack up significant amounts of debt in a relatively short time, and leave their victims holding the bag at the end of their buying sprees, the report said. For instance, research suggests that some 130 million pieces of malware and other computer viruses now exist, and when data breaches involving credit card numbers occur, the average amount that can be added to a victim’s balance is between $150 and $250 each.
And while banks and credit card lenders have certainly stepped up their efforts to detect and stamp out this kind of fraud when it happens, the fact remains that such data is rather at risk because the financial institutions can only detect identity theft of this type once it has taken place, the report said. There is little in the way of preemptive steps they can take to better protect such payment data, particularly because of how expensive these measures are to implement.
Moreover, other types of identity theft that involve personal information is becoming more prevalent as well. This can also be more problematic for victims because it means that their Social Security number or date of birth, which are vital to criminals opening fraudulent accounts, cannot be changed, and are considered to be out in the world forever, making them far more vulnerable to future instances of such crimes.