Before computers and before what has become the ubiquitous connectivity of modern-day life, information was much scarcer. Identity thieves had to work a lot harder to uncover their victim’s details; however, once they found what they wanted it was often much easier than it is today to get away with the crime.
The emergence of large-scale credit bureaus in the 1970s marked a new era in identity theft. These bureaus specialized in the collection of individuals’ financial information, and they quickly became targets for maleficent conmen looking for an easy score. Primitive identity theft consisted of coldcalling such credit bureaus and conning customer service reps into giving away the essentials, like a person’s DOB (date of birth) and SSN (Social Security Number). Identity thieves could then use these credentials to log onto government databases and access financial activity records.
Before the Internet became what it is today, these records were about all identity thieves had to work with. Such records were usually just a simple list of where a person held financial accounts, and nothing more. Identity thieves had to use these records as leads and using the phone they contacted the places where their victim banked. They’d then have to swindle their way past yet another customer service rep and hope to get an account number – the prized payoff and score.
Today, all of this has changed. Smooth-talking conmen who could charm their way past yesterday’s customer service reps have been replaced by the modern-day hacker, who instead manipulates the encrypted data of 1s and 0s.