You are a commodity. Thieves buy and sell people's identities 24 hours a day in fast-paced chat rooms. Dan Clements showed us how the chat rooms work. Clements founded CardCops.com, a company that has infiltrated this Internet underworld to look out for its clients.
"Right now these Internet hackers are here in real time buying and selling your personal information," Clements said.
Watch the video version of this story in the media player to the left.
Credit card numbers can be purchased for a dollar or less if you buy in bulk. And so-called full profiles, including a Social Security number and mother's maiden name, are available for just $80. ATM pin numbers and platinum cards cost extra. Clements also showed us a Russian criminal Web site where you can click next to people's identities and put them in your cart.
"It's just like you're shopping online." Clements said. "It just so happens that they're selling credit cards."
We found 187 identity thieves in a single chat room, and started sending them instant messages. Somebody named "romantic-time" was the first to bite.
It's important to speak the identity thieves' lingo, so ABC News asked, "How much CC?"
"Romantic-time" told us he could sell us 40 "cc"s, or credit card numbers, for $1.50 each.
Ironically, the crooks are obsessed with whether other thieves are going to rip them off. So ABC News played along, asking romantic-time, "Are you a ripper?" And requesting free samples to prove that he had real identities to offer.
Sure enough, in less than five minutes, romantic-time provided five samples — Americans' names, credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers. ABC News immediately called the people whose information we received to warn them their accounts were in danger.
"I had no idea. It's scary," one person said.
"It's pretty disconcerting," another said.
A third person had a similar reaction: "It's absolutely unbelievable."
Andy from California was one of the victims. We're deliberately withholding his last name and hometown, so we won't put his identity in any more jeopardy. His reaction?
"Shocked," he said. "A little upset and angry. You don't know where to go first, what to do about it, who to call."
It looks like crooks snatched Andy's information by hacking into a Web site where he shops.
So who are the identity thieves?
"The typical hacker we are pursuing is not your 17-year-old sitting in the basement of his home typing away on his computer," said Ed Lowery of the U.S. Secret Service. "It is an organized criminal group, usually based in Eastern Europe, and they are going after large-scale financial gains."
The problem is, the U.S. government doesn't have jurisdiction over criminals in other countries.
"The hackers know this, and a lot of them are in anti-U.S. countries and they know that, so they blatantly go in these rooms and buy and sell data because they have no fear of U.S. law enforcement," Clements said.
And that's even more reason for us to fear them. For tips on how to protect yourself from today's modern identity thieves, CLICK HERE.