2003 Identity Theft Teaches Tech Sophistication Lessons

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John Bryja for IowaWatch

Christy Eichelberger of Altoona was an identity theft victim in 2003. Since then, she says, cyber thieves have gotten smarter and the technology they use to rob others has gotten more sophisticated.

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Overnight, Christy Eichelberger became an identity theft victim. A hacker spent $1,300 of her money on virtual reality game pieces – items she knew nothing about.

“Here I am this housewife and, you know, I didn’t even know what these virtual game pieces were, let alone it wouldn’t be something that I would be buying in the middle of the night,” Eichelberger, 51, of Altoona, Iowa, said.

Eichelberger is an office manager for Wellness Chiropractic Center and an administrative secretary for the UnityPoint Methodist Transplant Center/Center for Liver Disease. A regular eBay buyer and seller, her PayPal account was linked to her eBay account. The hacker hacked into her eBay account, using her PayPal account to pay for the virtual game pieces.

“I just felt raped. I felt like somebody had just taken everything away from me because it was totally out of my control.”

Christy Eichelberger

Eichelberger found out about the hacker’s payment when she received her MasterCard statement a week after the hacking occurred. Her MasterCard was the default account on her PayPal and she saw the bogus PayPal charges when she viewed her MasterCard statement.

The hacker managed to get ahold of her email, bank account and MasterCard information from her eBay account, prompting her to place a three-year fraud alert on three credit bureaus including Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

“Every time anybody tried to set up a MasterCard or do anything on any of my accounts, they had to call and get my personal information, and I had questions that only I could answer,” Eichelberger said.

It took a month and a half to reclaim her personal information. That included attaining new account information and new cards, which her husband did as well. Even though the hacking didn’t take place at her home, she filed a police report to ensure for eBay and PayPal she wasn’t the one responsible for the $1,300 spent.

Eichelberger lived in Jesup, Iowa, when the hacking took place in August 2003.

“This was 2003, so just think about how much more it happens now, 14 years later, and the fact that they’re only going to get smarter and smarter on how they do things,” she said.

Although her hacker never was caught, Eichelberger said she has learned the importance of changing her passwords regularly and not saving her account information online. This was a life changing experience for Eichelberger, causing uneasiness and stress.

“I had anxiety probably for the first couple months after that. Even though I knew it was all online stuff, I still was scared,” she said. “It’s awful. You just feel like nothing’s sacred anymore, especially when you work so hard for things. Somebody somewhere got away with it and that’s not right.”

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  1. Pingback: Unsuspecting Iowans Fall Into Cyberattack Web | Oskaloosa News

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