Security Blog Log: Man of God, man of ID theft


Security Blog Log: Man of God, man of ID theft


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It's no surprise that a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that at least 3.6 million American households have fallen victim to identity theft. But every now and then, a story comes along that shows you can never tell what kind of people are out to commit fraud in your name.

This week, the Identity Theft Spy blog showcased the DoJ's findings along with a news story about a pastor and his wife being charged with the crime.

The DoJ study focused on a six-month period in 2004, finding that approximately 3% of the households in the nation -- about 3.6 million of them -- have suffered from identity theft. Forty-eight percent of households experienced an unauthorized use of credit cards, and the banking accounts of 25% were misused without their knowledge. Meanwhile, personal information from 15% of the households was misused, and the remaining 12% suffered multiple identity thefts.

The report added that households headed by people between the ages of 18 and 24 are more susceptible to identity theft. If the household income exceeds $75,000, the chances of identity theft are compounded, the report said, adding that the theft is not limited by race or ethnicity.

Also of note, an identity thief doesn't always fit with Hollywood's stereotypical loner in a dark room who's getting paid by organized criminal gangs to hack into bank accounts.

The blog makes that point by referencing an article in The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. about how Rev. Dwight Gill of New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange was arrested and charged with identity theft, along with his wife.

The story reported that Gill, leader of the church for more than a decade, was a pillar of the community, serving as president of the United Clergy of the Oranges and having a long record of civic and political involvement.

Specifically, police there said the pastor and his wife were charged with two counts of fraudulent credit cards, one count of identity theft and theft of services.

East Orange Deputy Chief Ronald Borgo wouldn't elaborate on the nature of Gill's alleged scheme or whether members of his congregation were among the victims, the newspaper reported. Borgo didn't know how long Gill and his wife allegedly had the credit cards or how much was charged.

The newspaper reached Gill at his home, but he wouldn't comment directly on the charges.

"I'd like to just say that God is good," he told the Star-Ledger, "and I hope through prayer that we can work this situation out."

Wherever the thief may lurk, the blog offered suggestions on how individuals can protect themselves. One way is for enterprises to embrace two-factor authentication.

"Identity thieves are coming up with innovative ways to gain entry into systems that house your data … cracking passwords using dictionary attacks, rainbow tables, or social engineering techniques," the blog said, adding that organizations "can prevent this intrusive occurrence" by adopting some form of two-factor authentication, where individuals are required to type in a password or pin number and also provide an additional form of identification.

The blog said this can be in the form of devices users can carry, like a card or token, or by using something like a fingerprint or iris scan.