A new report out from security company ALLOW shows all the tricks that identity thieves use to stalk their victims. None of it’s particularly sophisticated, but holy hell is it creepy.
The biggest surprise for me was the amount of info available on 192.com — for free. Given just a name and approximate location (so, for example, Chris Mills, London), it’ll give you a whole shitload of information — full name, age, address, phone number, which are all run of the mill, but also creepy stuff like how much you paid for your house, how long you’ve been living there, all the other occupants, everything, even your court records! Yes, I know this is all publicly held information, but still — I’m pretty good at ticking the “don’t include me on the electoral register” boxes, and am ex-directory; but yet there’s quite a lot of info you can pull up with just a name and a postcode. Go try it for yourself, then come back and let us know if you’re perfectly happy with all the data that’s out there for the whole wide world to see.
According to an ex-con found by ALLOW, the tactic they use is to use 192 data, combined with Facebook and LinkedIn, to build a convincing profile of their victim. Then, they either use this info to hack emails etc (by using your security questions) or just opening up new credit cards on your behalf. (In case you missed it, this is pretty much what happened to ex-Gizmodo writer, now Wired, Matt Honan).
So, what can you do to defend yourself? Well, tighten up those security settings, for a start. According to the report, one in four people don’t check Facebook privacy settings, and one in five accept friend requests from total strangers. It should go without saying, but don’t do this. Ever. Even if she’s pretty and mostly-topless.
As regards 192.com, it’s a bit more complex. For most people, they gather info from two public databases — the telephone directory and the electoral register. You can get yourself removed from both those databases quite easily, but if you want to completely remove yourself from the 192.com database, you’ll need to complete this form and mail/fax (yeah, I know, right?) the form back to them.
All in all, it’s a pretty eye-opening report. In these halcyon Facebook days, we tend to forget about those good ‘ole things like directory enquiries and the electoral register. Yeah, they’re not quite as cool and trendy as Facebook, but boy do they have lots on you. You’ve been warned — so no more coming crying here when your online life gets hacked to bits. [Daily Mail]
Our newest offspring Gizmodo UK is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix. [clear]