We previously discussed how robberies and theft used to be carried out in the past and how this has evolved in time. Now we will continue discussing modern ways that malicious people have employed in order to steal money.

Skimming

Technology has long played a part in most modern Hollywood movies, yet it’s not just the material of fiction, it is also something present in our daily lives. Technology can be an effective means for the 21st century thief to steal money with relative safety. The Skimmer is one such device that is used to steal credit cards. It is especially insidious when installed on an ATM. The thief would generally attach the skimmer on top of the normal ATM card slot. Unknowingly the victim would slide their card through the skimmer into the normal ATM slot which would copy the card and store it locally in a close by device or in some cases even transmit it to the thief who would be hiding nearby. A more elaborate system would also include a small hidden camera to record the victim’s PIN as he is entering it. Skimming is not limited to ATMs unfortunately, as these devices can be purchased relatively cheaply online and can be used anywhere from restaurants to any shop that allows payment by credit card. Therefore always be vigilant about your card and ensure that it is only inserted by staff in legitimate payment terminals. See for yourselves how a skimmer is used to defraud people.

Identity theft

Whilst cutting edge technology might seem glamorous, it is not a must for a 21st century heist. How about using normal equipment which is nowadays available to everyone?  Perhaps a simple laptop with a wireless connection? Wireless has been used to steal credit card numbers from the parking lots of stores. What about over the internet? Phishing emails have been used numerous times to perform identity theft; all that is required is a computer and an internet connection. But why is identity theft so dangerous? Why classify it as a 21st century heist?

Identity theft can be very dangerous to any victim. All that a malicious person needs is the victim’s name, date of birth and social security number and he can then apply for a new credit card in the victim’s name. The victim would be unaware of this new credit card and the perpetrator is free to use it for as long as he wants and never pay back any balance.  When the bank decides to take action they will not do so against the perpetrator, but against the victim, because for them it was always the victim who owned that credit card. And a credit card is not all that an identity thief can illicitly benefit from; what about taking a car loan? Again it too will be taken under the victim’s identity whilst the perpetrator would take the car bought from that money, or possibly even simply run away with the money. The victim will only get the bill. Another possibility is to open a bank account in the victim’s name and issue bogus checks on it. Again it will be the victim who will have to defend him/her self when faced with bank charges.

Fake money Orders / Checks

Another common modern theft method also involves a computer and an internet connection. The perpetrator will post a job opportunity or in some cases pretend to buy items from people who post ads online, but then send a fake money order or check. The method used here is that they will send you more money than the value of the item bought and ask that the difference in price be sent back as a voucher, gift certificate or wire transfer.  The fake check that was used as payment will clear for a few days until the bank processes the request properly and detects the check as being a fake. The scammer hopes that in the meantime the victim would have done his part and sent them the money in the form of a wire transfer or voucher. The money sent will be from the victim’s own bank account and therefore genuine. Meanwhile the money deposited to the victim will be withdrawn by the bank once the fake check/money order is detected, leaving the victim with a loss and the perpetrator with a profit.

Trojan, botnets and ransomware

Just like the modern age helped automate manufacturing in many industries it also helped automate the act of robbing people. Software designed to steal information such as credit card details, bank account logins and passwords is now commonly employed. I am of course talking about Trojans and botnets. Trojans like their virus counterparts before them are designed to spread autonomously. Some of this malware has evolved into being a modern equivalent of a heist, a sort of digital age kidnapping. known as ransomware, these  are viruses that encrypt documents and other important files when infecting a machine and then demand that the victim pay a ransom  for him to be able to access that data again.

I’ve just gone over the common hi-tech methods of theft employed these days; in Part 3, I will go into detail on how best to look out for such schemes and give tips about how to keep safe and avoid being victimized.