Stealth warning: Is it your identity he is stealing?

Individual data used to combat fraud is growing, which makes it an increasingly attractive target for hackers. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 August 2019

Stealth warning: Is it your identity he is stealing?

  • High-tech fraudsters chase bigger targets and payoffs as hacking war intensifies

NEW YORK: Data breaches through hacking attacks are distressingly common these days, and stolen personal details can lead to identity theft, such as credit cards and loans in the victim’s name. But it is hard to pin the blame on any specific hack, as the most sophisticated criminals combine data from multiple attacks to better impersonate you.

“That’s why fraud can be emotionally challenging,” said Kyle Marchini, a specialist in fraud management at the financial research group Javelin. “It just comes out of the blue, and there is no way to identify where it came from or what I could have done to prevent that.”

While the number of reported breaches decreased slightly last year to 1,244, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, the total number of records exposed more than doubled to 447 million. That suggests hackers are focusing on larger organizations with bigger payoffs. Last year’s figures include data on about 383 million Marriott guests in a breach that investigators suspect was tied to the Chinese government.

Criminal rings often buy datasets from multiple hacks to commit fraud. The idea is to collect enough information to get past ID verification and authentication checks that banks and other institutions employ. One database with your Social Security number might have your old address, but hackers can simply sub in your current one from a more recent database.

“We’re in this vicious cycle,” said Eva Velasquez, the ID theft center’s CEO. “We create and capture and use more and more data points about a specific individual in order to fight fraud and authenticate people. That, in turns, makes data more valuable to the thieves.”

Fraudulent card charges are relatively easy to reverse, and US law limits credit card liability for consumers. But fraud involving new accounts is tougher to deal with. Javelin estimates that the average victim spends 18 hours dealing with the fallout, including convincing collection agencies and credit-ratings agencies that the accounts weren’t really theirs. And victims wind up spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket. Javelin estimated that more than 3 million US adults were victims of new account fraud last year, nearly triple the number in 2013.

Much of the increase can be attributed to the cumulative effect of data breaches.

While credit card numbers and passwords can be changed, birth dates and Social Security numbers typically stay with you for life. And US passport numbers stick around for 10 years. Hackers in the 2017 breach of credit monitoring firm Equifax got some or all of that from 147 million people. Equifax agreed last week to pay at least $700 million to settle lawsuits.

Just a few days later, the bank Capital One disclosed a breach of personal information of 106 million Capital One credit card holders or applicants in the US and Canada. Although Capital One said it doesn’t believe the information was used for fraud, the breach further increases worries about leaked data.

“Every breach increases the risk because different pieces of information come out,” said Deepak Patel, a vice president at the security firm PerimeterX.

Beyond financial applications, personal data can be useful for telemarketing and email phishing scams, as fraudsters try to trick you by claiming they already know you. And criminals armed with such data can impersonate you on calls with financial institutions to get money transferred or a mailing address changed.


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.