Fraudster used Facebook to hack bank accounts
Published 15/08/2011 | 08:29
A hacker stole £35,000 from his neighbours' online bank accounts after working out the answers to their security questions from information they posted on Facebook and Friends Reunited.
Iain Wood spent up to 18 hours per day online, working out passwords from personal information posted on social networking sites by his acquiantances.
He targeted people living in his block of flats in a complex fraud and used his friends' personal details to get past security checks and hack into their bank accounts - stealing more than £35,000 over two years which he blew on gambling.
His scam only came to an end when he became over-confident and changed his system and the authorities were alerted.
Jailing him for 15 months, Judge Guy Whitburn said at Newcastle Crown Court:
"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."
Wood, 33, was living at Pandon Gate House, on City Road in Newcastle's East End, at the time of the offences, which went on between June 2008 and June last year.
He had got away with his fraud until he dropped his guard and changed his operation by directly transferring money out of one neighbour's account directly into his own, in November 2009.
When the victim was contacted over the withdrawal of £1,500, he realised he had been the victim of a fraud and the police were called.
At that stage the police thought it was a one-off, but when they arrested him Wood blurted out "Have you been on to me for a while?"
A subsequent search of his flat found a variety of bank account pin numbers, someone else's passport, bills and other paperwork, much of which he had taken from the post boxes of other residents in the block.
He admitted hacking into various bank accounts, most of them dormant, and intercepting other people's post when interviewed by police.
Neil Pallister, prosecuting, said: "He said he had figured out how to access online bank accounts.
"He would go on and say he couldn't remember the password and would be asked security questions about date of births and mother's maiden names and he was able to give correct details in some cases.
"He said he would be on the computer 18 hours per day to find out information about people on websites such as Facebook and Friends Reunited.
"He would make friends with people on Facebook and have got their usernames he would try it on the bank websites, on the basis people use the same passwords.
"If that did not work he would fill in the security information which he had got from Facebook and Friends Reunited."
On the occasions he successfully got access to the bank accounts he would change the address details and intercept the cards and take out cash.
Although most of the accounts he targeted were dormant, he was able to exploit the overdraft facility before anyone realised.
Wood, who runs a carpet fitting business, pleaded guilty to seven counts of false representation and asked for a further six similar offences to be taken into account.
He also admitted possessing article for the use in fraud