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IDTheft_DonHankinsScammers don’t need to be computer geniuses anymore to steal your credit card information. All it takes is a few hundred dollars for a fraudster to set up his own identity theft business, according to a new report by Panda Security, which makes antivirus products.

And don’t kid yourself: It is a business. Identity thieves have their own up-front capital costs, advertising campaigns, software and technology budgets. They operate like small corporations, albeit criminal ones, competing with one another to steal your data first and turn it into cash.

[Article: Big Apple Store Scam Arrests Bring ID Theft Back to Basics]

In addition to individual fraud rings trying to steal your information, there is actually an entire network of support companies actively creating new malware and other products, and selling them wholesale to front-line scammers.

“Price wars, numerous ‘special offers’ and the diversification of the business are all indications of how these mafias are desperately trying to drive up revenue. A few years ago, it was just a question of the sale of a few credit card details,” according to the report. “Now, in addition to offering all types of information about victims – even the name of the family pet – other services are available, including physical cloning of cards or making anonymous purchases and forwarding the goods to the buyer.”

[Resource: Safekeeping Your Identity]

As scammers proliferate and diversify, they’re beginning to offer price sheets for their different services. Here’s Panda’s breakdown of different scams, and how much they cost:

  • Credit card information – From $2 per card
  • Fake credit cards, printed with stolen information – From $190 per card
  • Card cloning machines – $200 – $1,000
  • Fake ATMs – $35,000
  • Online stores and back-office payment systems – $80 – $1,500
  • Renting a botnet to send spam – From $15
  • Renting a computer hub to manage the scam – From $20 for three months

Image: Don Hankins, via Flickr.com

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