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Cyber Crook Now Offering Advice About Protecting Against ID Theft

AARP photo

A man with a history of Internet fraud is now offering advice to law enforcement and the general public on how to avoid identity theft issues.

Brett Johnson was dubbed by the Secret Service as “the original Internet godfather” for his role in organizing the first cyber-crime community known as the “Shadowcrew.” He spent several stints in prison after he was convicted of 39 felonies related to Internet fraud and other crimes.

Now Johnson is giving advice to law enforcement and the general public on how to avoid getting scammed. Part of his focus is on the dark web, an underground version of the internet.

“On the dark web you’ve got dedicated marketplaces and forums that talk about nothing but criminal activity and that could be drug trafficking, human trafficking and financial and cybercrime, anything like that,” he said.

Johnson told a large AARP crowd Wednesday in Spokane Valley how the dark web is used by criminals to purchase personal information that can be used to create fake bank and credit accounts or clean out existing ones.

He says everyone needs to realize their information is already out there for criminals to pick up.

“Last year, 1,500 breaches, 2.6 billion records compromised, so we have to start accepting our personal information has been compromised,” Johnson said.

He says everyone should instigate a credit freeze for everyone in their household, including children.

“It works great for children, but for adults it just stops new account fraud. In 2018, new account fraud was only 4% of fraud. So the other 96% were on existing accounts, so you have to put alerts on the existing accounts where you can,” he said. 

Johnson advises to put the lowest dollar amount on those alerts so you can see any activity that takes place in all of your accounts. He says the easiest way to protect yourself is to create good passwords and change them regularly.

“The answer to that right now is using a password manager. It takes the problem of creating a password out of your hands. It does that for you. It logs in for you, it changes the passwords for you. It does all of that. So I advise using that now until we come up with a system that eliminates passwords in the future,” he said.

Johnson says 80% of people use the same passwords on multiple websites, a serious mistake.



Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.