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Sneaky ID Thieves Sidestep Security Technology

New security technology such as smart ID cards or biometric safeguards won't stop identity thieves, a British criminology researcher said Monday at a science conference in Dublin.

"Many people depend on technology to beat identity theft, but fraudsters evolve their strategies to keep up with changes in security technology," said Emily Finch, of the University of East Anglia in a lecture before the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

After interviewing convicted identity thieves and observing practices around cash registers, Finch was convinced that today's ID thieves have adapted their techniques to account for PINs (Personal Identification Number) required on debit and credit cards.

Previously, she said, identity thieves would first get a hold of the card number, then forge a signature. Now, however, the criminals are working the process backwards: obtaining the more-difficult-to-obtain PIN first, then getting the card account number.

"With 'chip and pin,' you can find the PIN first if you look when people punch it in," Finch said in her talk. "Since chip and pin came in, sales staff have been told to look away when customers enter their PINs. The human element has been taken out of the transaction, and it’s easy for fraudsters to take advantage of that."

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