ID thieves are often well educated, police say
When a thief gets the right piece of mail, making off with thousands of dollars through identity theft is simple, one former thief told CTV News.
And with many of her friends addicted to crystal meth and also involved in the scam, she pocketed the money without thinking of her victims -- and with little remorse, the former thief said.
"It was easy," said the thief in a telephone interview. "(All you needed was) one receipt, with somebody's credit card on it or whatever."
"The drugs cloud your judgement," she said.
CTV News has agreed not to divulge the former thief's identity.
But police say that many identity thieves are not who you'd think: they are mostly well-organized, well-educated young men and women often used to their parents' high lifestyle.
"We've got people who are the daughters and sons of judges, lawyers, police officers, professional people who have gotten into the easy life," said Sgt. Ken Athans of the Vancouver Police.
"They're used to the lifestyle that mom and dad had, and they start living that way," he said.
Often, there are different levels in a loosely organized criminal group, he said. At the low levels, there are "soldiers" who walk the streets, looting mailboxes, garbages and recycling bins, he said.
But higher than that are the scam artists who have the talent and the social skills to build mock-ups of credit cards and to call banks and break into their accounts, he said.
"They recruit, they train," said Athans. "Once one learns a way to defeat and steal mail, they will all do it."
The internet is a wealth of information for thieves, said security analyst Angela Swan.
Facebook can provide family names and birthdays -- essential ingredients of identity theft -- and online phone books can give addresses and numbers, she said.
"Then, when you call the credit card company, you can impersonate that person -- here's my birthday, here's my visa number, and you can get a new card issued," Swan said.
With the punishments for stealing mail and credit card less than many violent crimes, the risks are high and the same names keep cropping up in the courts again and again.
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Jonathan Woodward