Hackers can learn enough to defraud you in two hours

Nigel Morgan and Dave Cutts, with centre, Oli Poole
Nigel Morgan and Dave Cutts, with centre, Oli Poole
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How easy is it for hackers to steal your identity? Johnston Press Investigations Team reporter Oli Poole finds out.

In less than two hours, experts uncovered enough information to potentially defraud both me and my family – and you are probably equally vulnerable.

In double-quick time, a team from Cyber 123 and FSecure were well on their way to stealing my identity.

‘We are pretty confident we could have scammed you or one of your family members,’ said Cyber director Nigel Morgan.

Building a social profile using publicly-available information online was the first step. What they found was easily enough for a compelling episode of This is Your Life.

Barring a beyond-the-grave message from my late hamster, it felt like I’d spent an hour with Mystic Meg.

They knew my age, address, mobile and work number and email address, a detailed work and education history, my living arrangements and much more.

As a journalist, some of the information was easily gleaned from sources like LinkedIn and Twitter – but other details were less obviously sourced.

One tweet, it transpired, opened up a chasm of opportunity, leading to discovery of details about my nephew, pregnant partner and her family. And while my Facebook profile may have been fairly secure, the lax privacy settings of other family members left us exposed.

Even I did not know when my partner’s mother and stepfather moved in together. My would-be scammers did.

I was left scrabbling to do all I could to protect myself in future. A family summit was called and I will always be looking over my shoulder.