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Computer crime: Hacker uses Facebook to steal £35k from neighbours

In a "complex" and "sophisticated" scam, Iain Wood of Newcastle stole £35,000 from bank accounts of people living in the same block of flats as him by using personal details from their social networking accounts.

The hacker had a gambling addiction and wanted to steal money from his neighbours to fund it.

He posed as his neighbours in order to intercept credit and debit cards when they were delivered to his block of flats.

Then he would use telephone banking to access the accounts. He would pretend that he couldn't remember the password for the account and was able to supply answers to security questions about dates of birth and mothers' maiden names from what he had learned online.

The prosecuting lawyer, Neil Pallister, explained: "He would make friends with people on Facebook and have got their usernames and then he would try it on the bank websites, on the basis people use the same passwords."

Using this elaborate system, Mr Wood continued to steal from his neighbours for two years, between June 2008 and June 2010.

Mr Wood felt that his scam was so successful, that he became over-confident and began making direct transfers between one neighbour's bank account and his.

When the neighbour was contacted by his bank after a large withdrawal of £1,500 was made, the police were alerted.

Mr Wood may have got off lightly after being caught as the Northumbria Police were unaware that this theft was part of a larger deception, but Mr Wood asked: "Have you been on to me for a while?"

The rest of his complex scam was uncovered and Mr Wood pleaded guilty to seven counts of false representation.

Judge Guy Whitburn said: "This is the first time I've come across a sophisticated fraud such as this, it was very well planned, complex and clever."

"He was using other people's identities and there was a considerable breach of trust in assuming his neighbours' identities.

"It is an extremely bad deception on people in the same block of flats as he. People's blood runs cold when they see money taken from their accounts."

Mr Wood was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

Related links:
Read more on the story (Yahoo! News)
Find out ways to prevent identity theft (FindLaw)
Find local criminal solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)