The most popular ways to steal someone’s identity have nothing to do with the Internet.
The Center for Identity Management and Information Protection says that mail theft, dumpster diving, stolen wallets, and other low-tech or no-tech methods are used far more often, with only 10 percent of scammers using the Internet exclusively.
According to a 2006 Gartner Research study, last year an estimated 15 million people were victims of identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center summarized the results: "That means every minute about 28 and one-half people become a new victim of this crime, or a new victim in just over 2 seconds."
Criminal techniques continue to evolve. One increasingly popular method does involve the Internet, but it has a twist. An e-mail is sent out that tries to entice people to share their personal information, not online, but over the phone. Called voice phishing, CNET News.com advises people not to dial phone numbers received in an e-mail message. Dialing the bogus 1-800 numbers basically give scammers your telephone number.
Another scam involves credit card skimming. The Identity Theft Resource Center said a clerk slides your credit card through a second machine that scans the information from the magnetic strip and stores it until it is downloaded onto a counterfeit card.
Here are some of the latest online threats, according to TechNewsWorld:
Botnets: A botnet is a collection of compromised PCs that are linked to a server where they receive "instructions" from a so-called bot herder, a criminal who controls the network. These computers have been configured to transmit spam or viruses to other computers. A botnet is used to steal computer power along with passwords, bank information, and credit card numbers. A member of the botnet underground, John Schiefer, 26, who operated out of Los Angeles, installed code and infected more than 250,000 computers, looking for personal information. He may spend up to 60 years in jail.
Phishing attacks: Phishing involves a perpetrator sending out legitimate-looking e-mails that actually link to fraudulent websites, where phishers hope to gather personal and financial information from users who are tricked into believing the request is real. The Gartner Research study found losses from phishing attacks amounted to $2.8 billion in 2006.
Trojans: Trojans, or back-door programs, are a type of spyware that gain control over entire computer systems, sending information to an unauthorized person for the purpose of identity theft.
Keyloggers: These hardware devices record every keystroke a computer user makes, and are most often used to record personal data for identity theft.