In what could only be described as a life altering experience, when I
discovered that my identity had been stolen and bank account closed, I set
out on my own investigation to find out who had done this. When the police
told me that homicides took precedence over the fact that hackers had
threatened my life, then I decided to become my own advocate and wage war
against those terrorizing me through my computer.
The two and a half year investigation, which started in July 2003 and ran
through December 2005, codenamed “Operation Firewall” resulted in the arrest
of 48 people; 28 of which were from the United States and 20 from overseas.
In a book entitled
Through Angela’s Eye the Inside Story of Operation
Firewall, I chronicle, my ordeal. I reveal the methods I used to expose the
identity of the first hacker listing all of the steps I took to get his
picture, name, address and phone number. The book also outlines how and why
they were doing this. Exposing this information led to all of their arrests.
Over 4,000 cases and 64,000 arrests resulted. New laws were also put on the
books to prosecute those perpetuating the crimes. My efforts have made it
safer for people to make purchases over the internet.
Let’s face it, many shoppers prefer the convenience and ease of ordering
goods online from the comforts of their own home and having them delivered
right to their doorstep without having to set foot outside. However, such
conveniences open new doors for identity thieves.
In today’s day and age, you can never take too many precautions to prevent
and protect yourself from identity theft. By following a few simple rules of
thought, you can enjoy this convenience without it costing you your
Credit card companies have many new laws and regulations that were
implemented to protect the consumer with online purchases.
1. Always use a credit card and never a debit card. A hacker can drain your
bank account and close it which you are not able to reopen. A credit card
charge can always be disputed. Most credit card companies will only make you
responsible for the first $50.00 in fraudulent purchases. Check with your
credit card companies.
2. Check your credit cards to see if you have identity theft protection on
3. Check with them also to see if they offer online protection. Some
companies will assign you a bogus credit card number that you can use for
purchases that is only good for one day.
4. Shop at reputable online merchants. This includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Home Depot, or any other trusted household names. If you are shopping online
at small companies that may not be as popular, do some research. Sometimes
typing in the name of the store and the word complaints or rip off will get
you additional information. You can check the Sellers online reputation
through such sites as the BBB (Better Business Bureau) or the Attorney
5. Only shop at secure web sites. If it says http:, it is not secure. If it
says https:, the S means that it is a secure site.
6. Make sure the page where you enter your credit card details and other
personal information is also secure. When the data is transmitted, it is
encrypted when it is sent to the credit card company. The credit card
company is the only one who will see your full credit card number,
expiration date, name, address, phone, transaction number, and items you
purchased. When the receipt is sent to your email, you will only be able to
see the date, last four of the credit card number, transaction number,
total, and what you purchased. This is the same information that the
merchant will also see. Therefore, if you
need to add to your order, you will need to input the data again. If you
need a refund, they only need the date, transaction number, amount, and last
four digits of the credit card number to process it.
7. Make sure the website requests a CVV or CID number. The Card Verification
Value code is an extra layer of security provided by credit card companies
for those who shop online to prevent identity theft. It is usually three or
four digits that is located on the back of the card. It acts as a pin
8. Another option, is to have your credit card issuer place an additional
password that users have to enter before an online transaction is processed
MasterCard calls it Secure Code, while Visa calls it Verified. This service
is provided free of charge by the respective issuers.
9. Never e-mail a credit card number to a company. The e-mail does not
encrypt the number. Phishing emails are rampant. They are designed to trick
you into providing personal
information including credit card details.
Sometimes they will tell you what the last four digits of you card is before
asking to verify the full number. If it sounds too good to be true, it
usually is. Follow your gut.
10. If you feel unsure about making a purchase online, call the company.
Most merchants can safely place the order over the telephone.
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