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Eggs & Issues: Electronic Crimes and Cyber Criminals

December 09, 2010
Both agents work on the Electronic Crimes Task Force out of the Boston and Manchester FBI offices, which investigate credit card theft/ fraud, identity theft, network intrusion hacking, phishing and pharming websites, skimming, counterfeit credit cards, counterfeit currency and business scams. They were the team that investigated the Craig's List murder and helped prosecute the largest data intrusion case where over 40 million identities were stolen out of T.J. Maxx.

Seidell spoke to a full audience about how these crimes are perpetrated and what to do to protect yourself and your business.

It is not difficult to forge checks or steal credit card numbers. Seidell explains that anyone with a laptop, scanner and printer can make up fake checks. All you need is a routing number, a checking account number and a check-printing program, which can be purchased at any office supply. "All you have to do is Google a bank to get their routing number," says Seidell. "Let's say you pay someone with a check- they have your check number, all they have to do is print it up, open up a bank account, deposit a counterfeit check and before the check clears, cash it. Local banks usually process the money quickly. The bank loses the money. Seidell says check fraud is bigger than armed robbery by about 410 percent. "If I were a small business, I wouldn't accept checks," he cautions.

Credit card theft is pretty easy too. Card numbers are stolen by skimming, false front bezels on ATM machines and dumpster diving. Seidell says let's say you pay for a meal in a restaurant, some servers have a natural skimming device where they swipe your credit card right on the spot. The magnetic strip has all your data on it. Cyber criminals can sell that information or keep it for themselves and code your information on a blank gift card, which can be picked up at any retail store. Criminals place false front bezels are on ATM machines. Some ATM schemes have a camera that watch customers enter PIN or put a skimmer to capture information. "Just pay attention to these things and be aware of your surroundings," he says.

Seidell adds that most of the criminals are from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe where the prosecution laws are more lenient or non-existent. "Just recently, Bulgarian criminals got a couple of million dollars. They attacked 20 cities over a weekend," says Seidell.

Dumpster diving is well just that. Criminals sort through trash to obtain credit card receipts. Then there is phishing and pharming. The hacker sends out bogus e-mails pretending to be reputable. "It is like the Nigerian fraud scam. Someone pretends to be stuck in London, 'please help me and send money' or 'you have just won the Nigerian lottery'," says Seidell. Look for misspelled words and poor grammar to detect bogus e-mails. Hackers are getting more sophisticated and are improving their grammar and even stating in the e-mail: "Click on this link to learn more about identity theft." "I wouldn't click on these links. These are unsolicited e-mails. They are taking your information," says Seidell. They will take you to a malicious site and create all sorts of havoc for you.

Seidell continues that the hackers are now fourth generation, more sophisticated and e-mails are beginning to look more and more like legitimate sites. For example, there are unsolicited e-mails pretending to come from Fed-X or e-Bay asking for account information, but if you click on the link offered it redirects you to a malicious site, which will steal your identity. Seidell tells people to actually type in the company's URL and check out the scam warnings on their Web site.

One last piece of advice: update your computer and all its anti-virus programs regularly. "Download and install operating system updates, install and update anti-virus and spyware. Microsoft and Mac are continually working on patches to cover up vulnerabilities which criminals know," says Seidell.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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