Huffington Post: To Understand Identity Theft, Simply ‘Follow the Money’


Huffington Post Identity TheftWhy is identity theft such a growing epidemic? If a new Huffington Post article is to be believed, to understand identity theft you simply have to follow the money.

“Ten years ago, following the money meant following credit, debit card and Social Security number theft. Thieves would steal credit and debit card information to make unauthorized purchases, and use stolen Social Security numbers to create new identities and open lines of credit. Today, every bit of personal information is valuable to identity thieves. Your email address, your passwords, and even your mother’s maiden name or high school mascot can be used by an identity thief to hack into an online bank account or an Amazon account,” according to the HuffPo article.

The value of data to an identity thief also puts this growth trend into perspective, according to author Joe Ross, the president of CSID, an identity-theft protection company. Ross writes that a credit card number, name, and date of birth can sell for $13 on the Internet black market. A Social Security number can go for $20 — and get this, a bank account with a balance of $10,000 goes for an average cost of $625 on the black market.

But your bank account is barely on life support, you think? You’re not off the hook even if you’re deep in debt, as even your social media account can be bought and sold. Ross points out that an email address or a pet’s name can hold value to identity thieves.

“As we share more online, we make it easier for identity thieves to piece together profiles that can be used for fraud. For example, a pet’s name or the name of your high school are common bits of information you post to social media sites. These two things are also common passwords or answers to password reset questions. And while it may seem time intensive for an identity thief to guess a password or a password reset question for every single banking or shopping site out there, they don’t have to. There are numerous programs available to download for free that can test a suspected login and password against hundreds of shopping or banking sites in a matter of seconds.”

We’ve long warned that identity theft is a huge epidemic — especially so when using a “free” Internet connection without a personal VPN like Private WiFi. What information are you (over)sharing? Is that data protected and encrypted from prying eyes? You may recall that we recently partnered with our friends at the Identity Theft Resource Center about overall consumer privacy beliefs in WiFi hotspots. Check out our infographic results again — and please share with friends. You may just save them from becoming a victim of a preventable nightmare.


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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.