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.


Profit at UAE’s biggest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank modestly up

Updated 28 January 2020

Profit at UAE’s biggest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank modestly up

  • First Abu Dhabi Bank was created in 2017 by the merger of two Abu Dhabi-based lenders
  • FAB’s assets grow 10 percent last year to $224 billion, making it the second largest Arab bank in terms of assets

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates’ top lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank, on Tuesday announced a modest increase in net profit for 2019, despite “challenging market conditions.”
FAB said its net profit for last year rose four percent to $3.4 billion compared to $3.27 billion in 2018.
“2019 marked another year of growth for FAB, despite challenging market conditions regionally and internationally,” chairman Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in a statement.
FAB, which was created in 2017 by the merger of two Abu Dhabi-based lenders, saw its assets grow 10 percent last year to $224 billion making it the second largest Arab bank in terms of assets after Qatar National Bank.