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.


Saudi Arabia: All options open to OPEC+ as China virus weighs on price

Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud, pictured here at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, warned it was too early for OPEC+ to make a decision on oil supply. (Reuters)
Updated 8 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: All options open to OPEC+ as China virus weighs on price

  • Group will meet in Vienna in March to set policy, with the possibility of further oil production cuts firmly on the table

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud said all options were open at an OPEC+ meeting in early March, including further cuts in oil production, Al Arabiya reported. But he added it was too early to make a call on the need for more cuts.
“I can’t judge now if the market needs additional cuts because I haven’t seen the balances for January and February,” he said.
He added that when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia convened for an emergency meeting in March, the grouping would study where the market is and “objectively decide” if more cuts are needed.
OPEC+ agreed in December to widen supply cuts by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.7 million bpd until the end of March.
Prince Abdul Aziz said the aim of OPEC+ was to reduce the size of the seasonal inventory build that takes place in the first half of the year.
OPEC+ is due to meet in Vienna on March 5 and 6 to set their policy. A ministerial monitoring committee for the deal will meet in Vienna on March 4.
Oil slipped below $62 a barrel on Friday and was heading for a weekly decline as concern that a virus in China may spread, curbing travel and oil demand, overshadowed supply cuts.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud. (Reuters)

The virus has prompted the suspension of public transport in 10 Chinese cities. Health authorities fear the infection rate could accelerate over the Lunar New Year holiday this weekend, when millions of Chinese travel.
Global benchmark Brent is down almost 5 percent this week, its third consecutive weekly drop. US crude was also on course for a weekly decline.

FASTFACT

2nd - China is the world’s second largest oil consumer.

“One should be prepared for negative surprises when it comes to Chinese demand,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank. “The impact of this is all the greater because the restrictions are being imposed during the busiest travel season for the Chinese.”
China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer so any slowdown in travel would show up on demand forecasts.
Offering some support for prices was the US Energy Information Administration’s latest weekly supply report, which showed crude inventories fell 405,000 barrels in the week to Jan. 17.
Nonetheless, the upside for prices was limited. Oil inventories in the wider industrialized world are above the five-year average according to OPEC figures, which analysts say is limiting the impact on prices of supply losses.
“Such is the bearish pressure that a raft of ongoing crude supply outages are not gaining much traction,” said analysts at JBC Energy in a report.