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In bad economy, demand rises among crooks for ID data

Your identity? Bought in bulk, it's worth 6 cents

By Seamus McAfee

Consumers beware: You may be in a recession, but criminals who want to steal your information are not.

In the midst of a struggling economy, the supply, demand for stolen information in the black market remains high, according to a study by security software company Symantec Corp.  Scammers are showing up in large numbers to pay rock-bottom prices for credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and access to bank and e-mail accounts, said Alfred Huger, vice president of Symantec Security Response. "The underground economy has not been affected by the recession," he said.

According to the study, stolen credit card numbers can be bought for as little as 6 cents if bought 10,000 at a time, and for as little as $30 each for smaller orders. Meanwhile, e-mail accounts can go for as low as 10 cents, and bank account credentials for $10.

However, experts also said new security measures for credit cards have significantly reduced their value among crooks, who often need PIN numbers or verification codes to be granted full access to a card. "The value of just the front side of your credit card has gone to almost zero -- the bad guys need to get more and more data," said Peter Tippett, vice president of research and intelligence for Verizon Communications Inc.'s business security solutions division.

However, experts say cybercriminals are switching tactics through increased use of phishing e-mails -- where they create a website pretending to be a trusted business or individual and ask consumers to enter in sensitive information. Crooks will often advertise phony services they think are more likely to hook their targets in this economy, such as low-interest loans or mortgage refinancing. According to Symantec's study, phishing websites increased 66 percent from the previous year. A similar study by technology research firm Gartner also found there to be a proliferation in phishing e-mails and websites.

See related: Study: 'The war on phishing is far from over', Don't take the bait when you receive a 'phishing' e-mailHow to check for, fix ID theft or fraud, Credit card fraud victims more likely to recover losses

Published: April 17, 2009


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