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Identity Theft of Another Form

Cyber Bullying often involves an all too common problem: a much easier form of identity theft.

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This is Leo Notenboom for

One of the frighteningly common class of questions I get comes from
individuals, usually teens, who’ve become the victims of various forms of cyber

The situations boil down to two common scenarios:

The first scenario is one that probably won’t surprise you – someone creates
an anonymous email or IM account, and then uses that account to send
inflammatory, threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive messages to the
victim. Unfortunately it’s often impossible to figure out who’s sending these
messages unless they make a mistake, or unless law enforcement has the time to
get involved.

The second scenario is a lot more common than people think. Someone steals
the victim’s email or IM password, or somehow takes over their account. The
harasser then proceeds to send harassing messages to the victims friends and
family, impersonating the victim. The victim must then attempt to repair the
damage, which can vary from easy to impossible, depending on the relationships

We often think of identity theft as something that happens to people who
have assets or credit cards and other things of monetary value. And certainly
not something that happens to kids.

In reality, this form of identity impersonation for the purposes of on-line
harassment seems to be frighteningly common. And it’s much, much easier. A
mistakenly shared or easily guessed password can open the door to many forms of

Even with the statements plastered over my site that indicate I can’t get
your account or password back, I still get several questions that boil down to
that each week. I can only guess at how many there are in reality that don’t
ask because they see I can’t help.

The solution’s not easy.

One part of me wants to caution parents to do a better job of teaching
personal responsibility to their children, and to listen with an open mind if a
child – yes, your child – is accused of bullying.

On the other hand, I also (vaguely) remember what it’s like to be that age.
I was bullied as a teen and pre-teen. Kids haven’t changed, but the tools they
have available most certainly have. In many ways we’re giving kids incredibly
powerful tools in the form of the internet, email, IM, text messaging and cell
phones, way before they’re mature enough to understand the ramifications of
their actions.

And those tools aren’t going away any time soon.

The only advice I have is for parents to be watchful – your child may be a
victim, or a perpetrator. And for all, parents, teachers and kids alike, to
take these matters seriously. Kids, teens, and even adults, are being hurt and
scarred every day.

I’d love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 11157 in the go
to article number box and leave me a comment. While you’re there, search over
1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for

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4 comments on “Identity Theft of Another Form”

  1. Hi Leo
    Last week someone took over my wifes hotmail account. They used messenger to taunt me and say hurtfull stuff. I ended up with microsofts help regaining the account. While they had it they found an old email containing passwords for my web site which they accessed and took me off line. Email and all. The cost to my business was high. The ISP recoreded the IP, date and time and their ISP. Is there any way I can identify the name of the account from the IP I have obtained?

  2. Leo,
    I noted 30 years ago while designing security systems that everyone wanted (and still want) security and safety in their lives. But then, as now, MOST people will not spend the money and learning time to invest in their security. And I’m not talking kids, but professional, educated adults successful in their respective fields.
    The reality is over three decades I have not seen a realistic change in attitudes toward security, be it cyber, financial, or personal. Most folks will talk the talk, but few actually walk the walk. It’s a scammers playground and that will not change substantially for some time — if ever.

  3. Leo,
    what are the laws concerning email theft? I know who has been committing this against me and have evidence in several forms. Just trying to see all my options before i got to court.

    Hash: SHA1

    That’s too general a question. It varies on the situation, and even
    where you’re located. Your best bet is to contact local legal
    representation or local authorities.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)



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